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ANDRÉ BRUNET - La Grosse Maison Rouge 

ANDRÉ BRUNET - La Grosse Maison Rouge 
Private Label BRUNCD4001

Quebec's André Brunet was long overdue for a solo CD, and here it finally is. After meteoric stints with La Bottine Souriante, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and currently several years with De Temps Antan, fiddler Brunet at last found time to collect some great material and outstanding bandmates for his solo debut album. The result is something special, and if you get a chance to hear André on his new solo tours or with any of his bands you should be sure to go - and pick up a copy of La Grosse Maison Rouge while you're there.

Brunet has written most of the material here himself, a dozen new tunes from the sweetly soulful to the frankly funky. In the latter category, Le Réparateur De Chaise is joined by a Hot Club rendition of Maurice Lennon's Tribute To Larry Reynolds. At the other end of the spectrum is a handful of gorgeous airs: Parcelles De Mémoire with Stéphanie Lépine on viola, the crooked waltz Le Coin Du Balcon accompanied by guitarist Colin Savoie-Levac, and Douce Pluie De Soir with Scotland's Ailie Robertson on clarsach. There's no shortage of driving reels and jigs either: André opens with three of his own reels, and follows through with the title tune and two traditional Quebec reels.

Brunet adds characteristic Québécois foot percussion - what you or I might call stamping - to the dance tunes, and it really enhances the rhythm and lift of the music. Réjean Brunet's delicate piano accompanies the traditional Reel À Léo Cyr and the air Parcelles De Mémoire, while André massages the ivories himself for his reel, Remue-Ménage. Jigs finally make an appearance towards the end of this album, with the languid Réveil plus three traditional Irish jigs learnt from John Carty and given the collective title, La Grande Ourse. There is one song, the truly miserable ballad La Fille Morte, poignantly sung by the versatile Evelyne Gélinas who also plays harmonica and flute here. And that's almost all, but Brunet saves the best till last with the spectacular and delightful Promenade À Monaco featuring cellist Natalie Haas and a host of others: a superb melody brilliantly arranged, with hints of Oliver Schroer behind Brunet's own genius. Don't just take my word for it: get a taste of La Grosse Maison Rouge for yourself on André's website. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.