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La Bottine Souriante "Cordial" 6752702042

t's hard to believe that anyone still hasn't heard of La Bottine Souriante, acclaimed by many as the best band in the world. However, just in case any readers have been on a desert island (or in Mountjoy) for the last few years, I'll tell you that La Bottine is a 9-piece band from Quebec, combining French Canadian and Celtic traditional music with a large dose of swing, a brass quartet and an irrepressible sense of humour. If you haven't heard them yet, now would be a good time.

Over the past 25 years, La Bottine have become incredibly good at what they do. Traditional and contemporary songs in Canadian French, accompanied and unaccompanied, alternate with reels and airs from the rich repertoire of Quebec. This band boasts one of Canada's best singers in Yves Lambert, as well as the incomparable foot-tapping multi-instrumental talents of Michel Bordeleau and an unrivalled line-up of traditional and contemporary musicians. They play everything from barbershop to rap, kitchen session to cool jazz, and it's all excellent. Cordial follows the success of recent albums La Mistrine and Rock'n'Reel at pulling new styles into La Bottine's melting pot. There's a bit of Caribbean party music, a bit of techno, and a lot of big band razzamatazz, but the core sound is still the dance music and songs of rural Quebec. Canadian standards like La Grondeuse and Reel de Baie St-Paul are dusted off and souped up to fit La Bottine's sound, but in many cases this is the band that established them as standards in the first place. In fact, there are only four non-traditional tracks here.

There isn't really a lot more to say. I could get all misty-eyed about André Brunet's fiddle on Suede Inn, or tell you how wryly amusing the lyrics are on A Bas les Rideaux, but what would be the point? Like the man said, it's all good. Brash, bouncy, brilliant and beautiful, Cordial is bound to appeal. Try it and see.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.