I’ve been anticipating the new album by La Bottine Souriante for weeks now, and WOO! It’s finally out! The album’s called Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée, and I yoinked that thing right down from iTunes as soon as I saw it go up.
For my first exposure to the band’s current lineup, it performed splendidly. I had an undeniable initial “buh?” reaction to several of the tracks–because I have of course imprinted on a lot of the earlier La Bottine albums as my example of what they should sound like, and that’s not entirely fair to the newer members. Yes, vintage La Bottine is a POWERHOUSE OF AWESOME, and those are mighty large (smiling, aheh) boots to fill. I’m now quite prepared to state that the newer members are also awesome, but you have to go in with an open mind and open ear. Since there are so many new people in the lineup, the overall flavor and chemistry of the band is not the same, and so it’s necessary to judge the current lineup on their own merits and less on how much they sound like all the people that came before them (though I’m not discounting that, either).
On the whole I do quite like this album. After the first listen, I was a bit dubious. But after two more, I found it growing on me considerably. Granted, I was predisposed to like it anyway just because Éric Beaudry sings many of the songs–but on the other hand, his presence in the vocals was actually also kind of confusing to my ear! I’ve gotten used to hearing him as part of De Temps Antan as well as on his album with his brother Simon, so hearing him in this context is something I’m not quite used to yet.
There are two other gentlemen singing lead on the album as well, for whom I do not yet have names, and both of them did a fine job. The presence of so many backup singers makes for nice round vocals on many of the tracks.
Instrumentally, overall, the horns are sometimes more subdued than I might like–but again, a good chunk of that is coming out of my exposure to vintage La Bottine. When I cut back on that reaction and judge the blend of the horns with the rest of the instruments they’re playing with, I feel much better about them.
And now, track by track reactions!
Cette Bouteille-Là – I really like this one, which was the first of the free tracks the band was offering for download just before the album came out. This has an excellent blend of all the instruments and voices, and some jaunty energy to it. This is a great track for showing how the current membership of the band are inheriting from the older members.
Mon Père – Ah and here we have Éric Beaudry’s first lead song on the album! This has strong vocals in general, not only M. Beaudry’s, but also all the backup vocals. Some great deep vocals in the background, and all of the voices are set off nicely against the percussion. I particularly groove on M. Beaudry hitting his high notes in the background on the very last few bars of the song.
Reel à Roland – This is an instrumental, and starts off sounding fairly standard until the horns start coming in on the second iteration of the A part. Once the horns and piano build up, you start thinking, okay yeah, this is La Bottine Souriante.
Le Gourmand – Back to M. Beaudry on the lead vocals, which is always a good thing, though this is one of the songs on the album that kept making me think “wait wait this isn’t a De Temps Antan song”? Mais non, because there are horns here, and a lot more backup vocals! Also, M. Beaudry is rather more expressive on his vocals here than I’ve heard him be with De Temps Antan so far, possibly because he’s doing more lead singing here.
Chus Chatouilleux – Good strong punch from the horns to start this one up. I don’t know who’s singing here since I don’t know all of the current lineup of the band yet, but the singing’s good. It’s a bit weird for me though since whoever’s doing this singing has an accent similar to the lead singer over in Mes Aieux, so I’m once again having to remind myself that this is in fact a La Bottine Souriante album. When in doubt, listen for the horns.
André Alain en sol majeur – Another instrumental. It sounds like there’s a keyboard in here, which is another thing I’m not used to yet with the current La Bottine lineup. There’s a bridge in the middle with a keyboard solo, which gives this piece an almost jazzy feel. I find myself wishing that the horns were doing more than just backing up the keyboard, though; I really want to hear some trumpet love on the melody line.
Au Rang D’aimer – Back to Éric! A more plaintive ditty, this one, but nice full vocals.
Intsusadi – This is a good one! I don’t know what’s doing the main percussive line here–a steel drum? It’s a new sound for me in my La Bottine experience, regardless, and it makes this one the most interesting instrumental on the album for me.
Reel Calgary – While the previous was perhaps the most interesting instrumental, this one is nonetheless very appealing to me. Nice fiddle and footwork. As with track 3, the horns are pretty subdued–more than I might perhaps like. But on the other hand, they’re coming in at a good balance with the rest of the instruments and the overall somewhat wistful flavor of the piece.
On Va Barrer Les Portes – The other La Bottine singer I don’t know yet, but this is the same gent who sings lead on track 1. This song’s primarily vocal call-and-response, with just piano and footwork on the verses, until the horns and fiddle come in on a nice jaunty bridge. That bridge? That’s what I listen to La Bottine Souriante FOR.
Pèle-Mèle – One more Éric song! Good big fat bridge from the horns and keyboard.
Le Baillard – The album’s final track is one more instrumental, and a good long, strong one as well, layering in all the various instruments and letting them build power at a good pace. By the time you’re three minutes into the track, oh yeah, there’s excellent muscle to the horns here. And about halfway through, an excellent stomping bit! This one reassures me that while I may miss the powerhouse of awesome that was vintage La Bottine, modern La Bottine can bring it too.
Long story short, if you’re into Quebecois music or think you might want to be, yes, you should buy this album. I was delighted to see it go live on iTunes AND on the Amazon MP3 downloads store for purchase, which means it’s readily available to US customers. Their record label also has it available for purchase right over here!