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BARACHOIS - "Encore" - House Party Productions - HPP 4

A lot of people have the mistaken view that when the Acadians migrated from Canada to Louisiana, bringing with them a lively dance and musical heritage that became 'Cajun', they left none of these cultural roots behind. Barachois are living and breathing proof that Prince Edward Island (PEI) in particular is a happy and syncopated place with a strong cultural heritage. In addition, due to its proximity to Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia, there are obvious 'borrowings' which give help to convey the richness of the culture. Although most of the songs and tunes are of traditional origin, the fiddler Louise Arsenault contributes three gems of tunes and two interesting Victorian songs from PEI are also included.

I've often wondered why the traditional songs with the most serious themes seem to have the jolliest tunes (for example the original tune for The Gresford Disaster was a happy waltz!). Barachois demonstrate that the Acadians had similar ideas, an example of which is a delightfully upbeat song called 'Mon Mari Est Bien Malade' ('My Husband is Gravely Ill'). This song is one of the highlights of an already excellent album. My personal favourite is Arsenault's 'Reel Traditionnel - Reel à Stéphane' ('Traditional Reel - Stephane's Reel') although I can detect some 'borrowing' from Shetland culture in there somewhere. Other plus points are that the Old Colonial French lyrics have been translated into English (which is more than one could expect in even a restaurant menu in Quebec) and the production is of a particularly slick standard for which Grey Larson can claim most credit. Even if Cajun/Acadian syncopation has never really been your cup of tea I would certainly give this album a listen - it probably won't transform your life, but it may get you dancing with your spouse again at the very least!!

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.