Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Malicorne - "Le Prince D'Orange"
Malicorne - "La Conduite"
So here's something a little outside of my usual ken: seventies French "rebirth" folk music!
The late sixties saw an international trend in the popularity of folk rock, traditional songs being arranged for electronic instrumentation and generally reworked in a modern fashion. In the US, we got Dylan; in the UK, Steeleye Span and the Fairport Convention; in France: Malicorne.
Malicorne is an ensemble (that's french for "band"!) fronted by the legendary Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub, along with his wife (and Malicorne bandmate) Marie, recorded extensively throughout the late sixties and seventies and pioneered a revolutionary revival in French roots music.
Malicorne was originally comprised of the Yacoubs; Laurent Vercambre, who in addition to vocal duties played the violin, bouzouki, harmonium AND mandolin for the group; and Hughes De Courson, who, in 1991, collaborated with the blind Gabonese musician Pierre Akendengue to produce Lambarena, a tribute to Dr. Albert Schweitzer(?!) in the form of a fusion of traditional African chant and the compositions of Johannes Sebastian Bach(?!?!)
Malicorne hasn't released an album in almost ten years but they sure made a healthy dose of amazing music in their time. I chose two vocal pieces to share with you as that's my cuppa; you should consider making an effort to find more so as to hear a couple of the equally beautiful instrumental-only Clockwork-Orangish-style tracks that the band was also well known for.
"Le Prince D'Orange" is an anti-war folk song from (I believe) the thirteenth century, newly arranged by Yacoub and performed live for this recording in '78. Here is a rough English translation of the song and here is a tree of the lineage of the Princes of Orange (the specific Prince in question in this song seems likely to be William the II; I welcome correction on this point from any Francophiles in the audience). The strident acapella harmonies are chest-swelling and exciting; rarely do songs crafted in the name of peace sound so rousing and proud.
"La Conduite" is another antique traditional, apparently a sort of wistful singsong marching cadence. The lyrics tell the story of soldiers who must "leave dear companions" and "bid our farewell to our pretty mistresses".
This powerful track's opening is strangely reminiscent of the then-decade-old "A Day in the Life"; all cacophonous strings and twisting tape. It functions almost as an aural time machine; first shredding and shedding sophisticated orchestration and recording tricks, then transporting us to an ancient country road and the dull, relentless bludgeon of a bone-weary dirge.
The sound of treading feet was recreated in concert (and apparently on this tape, according to the liners) by the performers thrusting fists into sacks of grain. It's a tremendously effective illusion, making this cut (along with Willie Dixon's "Walking the Blues") one of the most evocative slogging songs ever.
The comparison to Dixon seems exceptionally apt; this music strikes me as the closest thing the French are likely to muster to traditional American blues.
Amazon has pretty much NO Malicorne CDs in stock for US buyers; Rykodisc (who originally offered the '89 Malicorne greatest hit disc "Legende" that these tracks are taken from) has let its US Malicorne discs lapse out of print and even eBay a dry well.
Why not let Rykodisc know that they have a potential hot commodity on their hands?
TALES FROM THE RED-HEADED STRANGER
FORKSCLOVETOFU SEZ: The Red Headed Stranger is the nom de plume of the Hut's country music scholar.
The Stranger recently left a new pair of tracks on my front doorstep, along with a raccoon skin and a headcheese wrapped in wax paper.
He means well, but I'll be forever getting the songs out of my head and the smell outta my foyer.
Allison Moorer - "Once Upon a Time She Said"
Allison Moorer - "Storms Never Last"
No doubt about it, Shelby Lynne is brilliant. She's beloved by critics, country and otherwise, and by a devoted, sizable cult.
And she's not even the most talented member of her family.
That would be her little sister, Allison Moorer (Moorer being the family name Shelby dropped). Her 1998 debut Alabama Song was a quiet gem, but her genius first caught fire with 2000's The Hardest Part, a gripping song cycle about doomed romance (having been orphaned by a murder-suicide, it's a subject she knows all too well). Since then, her sound has expanded outward from traditional country to the Neil Young-ish sounds of her latest and perhaps best album, last year's The Duel -- but as they say in Nashville, she's so country that she couldn't go pop with a mouthful of firecrackers.
"Once Upon a Time She Said" is a song about resignation, about coming to terms with the fact that you're not as special as you might have hoped. It's about how people need leaders, but most of us will always be followers. Maybe, just maybe, it's about how, although she was being groomed for mainstream country stardom five years ago, it now looks as if Moorer will have to be content with a cult even smaller than her sister's. The specifics don't matter, because the lyrics are universal; there are very few who can't relate to the feeling that the fairy tales our mothers told us about growing up to be president are never going to come true. It's a song about the rest of us, performed with spellbinding patience and stillness before exploding into a bridge so simple and true I can't believe no one ever wrote it before.
Like most of Moorer's songs, "Once Upon a Time She Said" was written by she and her husband, guitarist Doyle "Butch" Primm. The couple has just split up, presumably ending their working relationship as well -- and throwing her artistic future into doubt. If all else fails, she still has one of the richest, honey-drippingest voices on earth, and she knows exactly how to use it to make cover songs like Waylon Jennings' "Storms Never Last" sound like the salve for all your wounds. It's a highlight of the spotty 2003 Jennings tribute Lonesome, On'ry and Mean; aptly enough, it was written by Jennings' wife, Jessi Colter.
Buy The Duel from Amazon. Now, dammit!
Buy Lonesome, On'ry and Mean, which also features Norah Jones' ravishing take on "Wurlitzer Prize" and Henry Rollins' ... er, spirited version of the title cut.
Read about how Moorer performed on the Oscars in 1999.
Moorer is now on tour with the equally awe-inspiring Steve Earle, giving you the opportunity to experience two of country's finest live acts in one evening. Coincidentally, guess who she's dating?
Hey, maybe they'll write together.
It was one of those moments you get every now and again where you feel like you're the first in the world to realize that chocolate and peanut butter go together. Somewhere about the three millionth listen of Beyonce cooing over "Lose My Breath", I realized just where I had heard that marching band cadence before.
No, not "The Jump Off" (though that is a pretty healthy dip into Timbo's icecream that Darkchild is taking).
Can's "Vitamin C".
Once seen, like illusion Jesus, such a connection can never be unseen again. I needed to hear these two pushed up against one another with some quickness but without any mashup skills of my own, how could I make such a miracle happen?
I popped on the Tofu Signal and got an answer a week later in the form of the following track from DJ Michael Gill. So, without further ado, here's:
Can Child - "Lost My Vitamins"
It's not EXACTLY what I heard in my head, but it's fascinating in the way it turns B's voice into a percussion instrument AND a string section. Interested parties are welcome to take a stab at remixing the remix; I'll put any submissions of merit up on th' Hut for further inspection.
And hey if you liked what Mike's cookin', give a listen to this cut from Gill's Clovers album:
Michael Gill - "Whip It"
where credit is due
Oliver at Soul Sides likes what th' Hut is serving but is pissed cuz the plates are all dirty and we WOULD show our gangsta and smack a blogga except we're in complete agreement with him about the sorry state of the site design.
Look. Here's the deal. I'm interested in CONTENT and I'm not much of a tech guy. I can't put TOO much time into making the place look all slick and cool, cuz that'll take away from time better spent writing.
Heck, I've even recieved a very nice offer to help redesign but that's not quite what I'm looking for.
So, here's what I'm begging.
I have a clear idea of what I want the page to look like and can provide artwork and direction and a look. What I NEED is someone who can implement my ideas in Movable Type and then I'll take this thing offa blogspot and go buy my own URL.
I need a New York area webhead to do some real work for me. I can offer pittance cash, a permanent link on a much traveled page to your site and some CDs in exchange.
Any takers? Please? Don't make Oliver cry.
And shouts to Hut faves Benn Loxo Du Taccu, Chromewaves, Stereogum, Fluxblog and Teaching the Indie Kids representing musicblogs up in th' '05 Bloggies!
We Movin' On Up!