Yves Lambert’s is a well-known and well-respected name in Québécois traditional circles, as a founding member of La Bottine Souriante, as founder of the Bébert Orchestra, and, since 2010, the driving force behind the Yves Lambert Trio. The trio consists of Yves on accordions (I suspect that the word accordion is used in a more generic sense rather than referring strictly to piano accordion), Jews Harp, harmonica and lead vocals; Tommy Gauthier on violin, foot percussion and vocals; and Olivier Rondeau on guitars, bass and vocals. Their latest CD, Tentation, also features Mark Busic’s harmonium on one track.
The CD’s title is derived from Yves’ fascination with the story of the Temptation of Saint and Anthony, and the sleeve illustrations by Geneviève and Mélissa Chabot are based on an engraving by Martin Schongauer, though I get the impression that Yves is enjoying being tempted by demons far more than Saint Anthony was. Sadly, my 1960s vintage A-level French was of little help to me in understanding the lyrics, so the notes on individual tracks that follows are largely based on Yves’ own notes. However, not being able to follow much of the lyrics didn’t in the least mar my enjoyment of the CD.
- ‘La Poule à Jean-Paul’ is a reworking of the earlier hit ‘La Poule à Colin” (Colin’s Chicken)’ inspired by Jean-Paul Guimond.
- ‘Ignominie’ is a nineteenth century song that tells the story of a poor family burdened by a drunkard, though the melody is much older.
- ‘Suite du Cap Breton & La Deboulade’ features two reels from Cape Breton fiddler Andrea Beaton and a third composed by Tommy Gauthier in a similar style.
- ‘Les Diables’ – apparently this medieval song is based on the “Mistrine”, “a celebration where the common folk have fun setting traps for Beezelbub” and is here given a very modern treatment. The devil has the best arrangements as well as the best tunes.
- ‘Cousinage & Penchant Pour Ti-Jean’ is described as “A joyful call-and-response song about lawyers in true Québécois style”. Clearly I need to become better acquainted with that style, if not with the lawyers. This song is from the repertoire of the French-Canadian actor and singer Ovila Légaré.
- ‘La coquette à Poupa & Sa Suite’ features more Québécois reels. They didn’t quite get me “out of my chair” (not much does unless it’s the offer of a nice red wine), but they certainly got my feet tapping.
- ‘Le Lac Rond’ features the harmonium of Mark Busic, who also provided a cleverly understated arrangement building from a simple drone to something more complex.
- ‘Adultère & Le Reel du Cocu’ is, I guess from the title, somewhat saucy: in any case, it’s certainly toe-tapper.
- ‘Vent d’Irlande’ begins with some attractive, lilting ‘Celtic’ guitar, building into a more band-oriented instrumental. Lovely.
- ‘VIP Pour L’enfer’ Yves says: “The Devil comes to earth on the prowl for dishonest folks, in the style of a protest song.” If only the 60s “protest” boom had featured more lively music like this and less lugubrious songs about plastic people and everything being all wrong, man…
Yves notes that “For me, this theme is a nature study. A view of humanity through its strengths and weaknesses. From sacrifice and sin to pleasure and regret, with sacrifice integral to pleasure – plenty of paths to take.
It is in this spirit that I have developed the “happy” concept that will imbue this new album, featuring temptation in all its forms – carnal pleasure, drinking, abuse of power, etc.”
Perhaps it’s not going to be a big hit in the Vatican, then. But this combination of muscular vocals, adventurous material, and fine musicianship is certainly going to keep my ears and toes happy for a while. Sadly, by the time you read this, the dates I have for a July 2018 UK tour will mostly or all have passed. So watch out for the next one: I’ll stick my neck out on the strength of this recording to say that their live concerts must be spectacular.
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Artist’s website: yveslambert.com/en
‘La Poule À Jean-Paul’: