Being the raving fangirl of Quebec music that I am, I’ve happily identified several skilled musicians who are now well and thoroughly in the category of “I want to purchase every single note these people EVER RECORD EVER”. And very high on this list is André Brunet!
I didn’t know it at the time, but I first discovered André when I saw La Bottine Souriante perform for the first time. And when I brought home the album Rock and Reel, one of the tracks I fell most strongly in love with was “Autumn Sky”–which I know now of course as “Ciel d’Automne”, one of his earlier compositions. These days, he’s one third of the fantastic trio De Temps Antan, who I’ll be scampering off to see perform in Canada in one more month! (Of which there WILL be extensive coverage, O Internets, and as many pictures as possible. With mammoths!)
But only in the last few weeks have I learned that he’s also a member of a quartet called Celtic Fiddle Ensemble. This group just dropped a brand new live album, Live in Brittany. This was reviewed by Hearth Music right over here, and on the strength of that review plus André Brunet, I snapped this album right up. In the process I actually wound up getting an older album of theirs as well, Équinoxe, because Loftus Music’s mail server kept mailing me confirmation mails over and over and they kindly offered me a complimentary CD for the trouble.
(And because the person I spoke with in email was so awesome about giving me that free CD, let me plug their site directly: they’re right over here! Seriously, go check them out and see if they’ve got something you’d like to buy!)
Anyway, survey says re: both albums: if you’re a fan of excellent fiddle, check these guys out. There’s masterful, expressive playing all over every single one of these tracks. You can definitely tell which tunes are Quebecois whenever André kicks in with the podorythmie, which of course pleases me immensely–but there’s plenty of goodness on the non-Quebecois tracks as well. And some of these tunes I actually recognize from hearing them played in session, which gives me, as a newbie session player, a particular little kick of pleasure.
Now, like it says on the tin, these guys specialize in fiddle. But their guitarist is by no means an afterthought. As I’ve come to learn in sessions, you don’t want more than a single guitar backing up the melody players–but this means that whoever’s on guitar has the responsibility to provide suitably skillful accompaniment. Rhythm and tempo must be maintained–and whatever chord line is getting hit, ideally, should be just as interesting to listen to as the melody. So that rhythm needs to not only support the melody, but sometimes provide counterpoint to it as well. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ve tried it.
I was very happy to observe that the group’s guitarist, Nicolas Quémener, is absolutely up to the task of accompanying three master fiddlers. While André, Kevin Burke, and Christian Lemaître are over there laying down the law on their instruments, Nicolas lets fly with return fire on his guitar. You’d think that three fiddles versus one guitar wouldn’t be a fair fight–but with these gentlemen, you’d be wrong.
Équinoxe is an earlier album, dating back to 2008, while Live in Brittany is of course the brand new album. If you pick up both of them, listen to Équinoxe first, just because it’s fun to see how the group progresses from studio album to live concert album, and what happens as they get five more years’ experience between them. If you get just one, get Live in Brittany–but get one! Because wow, these guys can play.
Loftus has the live album right over here in both CD and MP3 form. Ditto for Équinoxe, here. You can find the older album on iTunes as well, and both are on Amazon, but honestly, since Loftus Music’s rep was so awesome to me–buy ’em straight from Loftus. You’ll be glad you did.