The Charbonniers stand out very, VERY strongly against the rest of my Quebec boys on the grounds that they specialize in the two big things that I love the most about Quebecois traditional music: the mouth reels, and the podorythmie! They are entirely a cappella, and so this is ALL these guys do. It’s like they are a concentrated blast of French Canadian AWESOME.
We’ve got five gentlemen here, a bit on the older side but all with very, very strong voices. Their two (and they have TWO!) podorythmie guys, Michel Bordeleau and André Marchand, have the distinction of being former members of La Bottine Souriante–and Michel in particular has a distinctive enough voice that I’ve pegged him now on earlier La Bottine tracks. All five of the Charbonniers take turns singing lead, so all of them get a chance to show off the character of their voices, though.
I’m a big fan of M. Bordeleau’s footwork, but I’ve got to say that of the various gents’ voices, I’m favouring Jean-Claude Mirandette’s the most. He’s got a beautiful tenor voice that is shown off to great advantage on several of the tracks on their live album, which I’m about to get to now!
Hands down and no contest, their live album, En personne, is my favorite of their work. They’re good in the studio and I have several of their tracks on repeat play, but they are an order of magnitude more vigorous in the live album’s performance. I’ve been playing the hell (AHEH–you did translate their name, didn’t you?) out of this album for weeks now, and they’ve been leading the charge in getting me more interested in translating Quebecois French lyrics so that I can try to understand them myself, as proper words rather than ‘pretty noises the nice men are making’, and sing along.
Three very excellent live vids from this performance are up on the LinkTV site: “Yes Very Well” (see previous commentary re: M. Mirandette, who takes lead on this one, and also note M. Bordeleau on the left making with DANGEROUS footstomping), “Sur La Vignelon” (where I believe Monsieur Normand Miron is taking the lead on this, and he too has a very distinctive voice), and last but MOST DEFINITELY not least, “Les Turlutes”, where the boys tear right through one gigantic chain of turluttes. XD I’ve posted about this last vid before–look in particular for the podorythmie stomp-off in the middle!
All three of those songs are among my repeat plays off of En personne, but the Turlutes track is very, VERY high on the list just because of how much the Charbonniers are getting into the performance in that video. They’re clearly having such great fun that I cannot help but enjoy watching them–and you can see glimpses of the audience really getting into it too!
I’m given to understand that the physical CD of this concert comes with a DVD, and I plan to order this ASAP. The album IS available electronically on iTunes, but it’s not on Amazon MP3–and I’d recommend you order the CD anyway so that you can get the DVD too, if at all possible!
The rest of the Charbonniers’ discography does also appear to be available on iTunes, though. Most of the tracks on En personne come off the album called Wô, and you can really tell, comparing them, how much more vigorous the live album is. So while that album certainly isn’t bad, if you wanted to get a studio Charbonniers album instead I’d recommend either À la grâce de Dieu or their most recent one, Nouvelles fréquentations. The more recent one is notable for having less of a trad emphasis; in fact, according to this link that went up on Facebook earlier today, it’s actually up for an award for Best Contempary for the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards! I like the other studio album better just because it has more of a trad bent, but this one’s good too; it very much reminded me of the Nylons, who y’all remember were the group that did that awesome a cappella version of “Kiss Him Goodbye” many years ago. Bonus LOLs on this album for having a French version of “In the Jailhouse Now”, which I know from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?.
The Charbonniers’ site does NOT have links off to buy their albums that I can see, so if you want to order physical copies, your best bets are probably going to be Archambault.ca or Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.