After Renaud reestablished himself with Boucan d'Enfer (2002) and Rouge Sang (2006), a pair of critically acclaimed, chart-topping albums released after a long battle with depression and alcoholism that put his career on hold for several years, he took the chance to record the minor effort Molly Malone: Balade Irlandaise, a collection of Irish folk songs adapted to French. A longtime fan of Irish music, Renaud had wanted to record an album like this for years. In fact, one of his greatest hits, "La Ballade Nord-Irlandaise," is an Irish folk song, and in some ways, this album builds upon that performance. Molly Malone: Balade Irlandaise is impressively authentic, including Irish standards such as the traditional "Molly Malone" and the more recent "Willie McBride" (aka "The Green Fields of France"), along with quite a few obscurities and a new version of "La Ballade Nord-Irlandaise." Best of all, the musical instrumentation is Celtic in style. The opening song, "Vagabonds," is an instance of the album at its finest. The one drawback is Renaud himself. He sings in French but adopts something of an Irish accent, singing these songs as a true Irishman might sing them. This is jarring at first, particularly for those not accustomed to Irish music. Moreover, Renaud's voice is rough around the edges and he stumbles through some songs (e.g., "Te Marie Pas, Mary!"). His years of hard living are audible, and this makes Molly Malone: Balade Irlandaise all the more authentic. Unfortunately, it also makes for an album that isn't for everyone. Make no mistake, not all Renaud fans are going to welcome Molly Malone: Balade Irlandaise. Some will enjoy it because of their affection for Renaud, and others will enjoy it because of their affection for Irish music. On the other hand, those hoping for another album along the lines of Boucan d'Enfer and Rouge Sang will likely be disappointed. With a catalog reaching back to the mid-'70s, Renaud has a multitude of great albums to his name. Molly Malone: Balade Irlandaise isn't one of them.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier