Last but OH MY definitely not least in the slightest, we come to La Bottine Souriante!
Of all the groups I’ve been getting into, La Bottine is the oldest, and as near as I can tell they are pretty much the modern Quebecois trad version of the Chieftains. They’ve been around since the late 70’s, and became famous for taking the folk melodies and slapping a lively horn section on top of them. That, combined with the showmanship of lead singer Yves Lambert, made La Bottine a phenomenal live band during their earlier heyday. As I’ve posted before, I had the fortune of seeing them perform at the same Celtic concert where I first saw Great Big Sea, and I’m here to tell you–they WERE awesome. Monsieur Lambert had an amazing rich, round voice that hit my ears like 900-calorie cheesecake, and their horn section was laying down a wall of sound that steamrollered the audience.
So yeah, when it comes to modern Quebecois trad, La Bottine are the giants on whose shoulders everyone else after them are standing. If you want to get into this music at all, you cannot do wrong at all if you start with La Bottine. Even their name, “The Smiling Boots”, sums up why I love this music so much–not only because of the podorythmie, but because of the lively, upbeat energy. Well, that, and the aforementioned wall of sound from the horns, which do yea and verily ROCK.
Be aware that since La Bottine has been around for so long, they have gone through a huge number of membership changes over the years. This will therefore impact what level of awesome you get from one of their albums, depending on where in the discography you’re looking. I have only five of their many albums myself, and all of them are in the earlier stretch of La Bottine’s long range of activity: Chic & Swell, En Spectacle, Jusqu’aux P’tites Heures, Les Épousailles, and Rock & Reel (which has the distinction of being the only La Bottine album released in the States). Of these albums, I would most recommend either Rock & Reel or En Spectacle, which is a live album–either of these will give you an excellent introduction to the band’s canonical sound.
A big difficulty here though is that La Bottine’s albums are hard to find. Since Rock & Reel is the only one that was ever released in the States, and since a lot of the places that historically have sold music have been losing out to online distribution sources, even that one will be hard to find outside Canada. And very few La Bottine tracks, sadly, are available electronically! The US iTunes store, for example, has only a small number of La Bottine tracks, and all of them are single tracks on compilation albums. None of them are on the band’s own works.
The one electronic recommendation I can make is that La Bottine appears on the Chieftains collaboration Fire in the Kitchen. Great Big Sea fans will know this album well, since it’s got a GBS track on it, a take of “Lukey”. However, the La Bottine track on it, “Le Lys Vert” is very strong. This album IS on iTunes, and you should get it if you can–not only because of GBS and La Bottine being on it, but also because it’s a great overview of Canadian folk.
If though you want to find their albums, Amazon.com has them all (I think all, anyway) here. Amazon.ca represents over here. Archambault.ca, here (and they DO have La Bottine available as MP3 downloads, but again–only for Canadian customers).
YouTube-wise, there are a LOT of La Bottine vids of various quality, and most of them appear to be either older songs with static images, or else live performances involving the current-day members. Of these:
This one is the studio version of “Le ziguezon zinzon”, which goes clear back to the early album Chic & Swell, which is early enough that André Marchand–now over in the Charbonniers–is still in the band! And I think this may in fact be M. Marchand singing lead on this track; I’m not quite sure.
From Rock & Reel, I give you YoYo Verret, which is arguably one of the very first La Bottine ditties I ever fell in love with. The vid is static images only, and includes several of the modern lineup of members–so keep in mind that this is actually an older La Bottine song. I’m pretty sure that Michel Bordeleau, the other former La Bottine member now in the Charbonniers, has the lead here. And listen for the shiver-inducing deep harmony at the very end of the vocal section!
Off of En spectacle, here is “La Grand’ Côte”, one of the best tracks in the performance. There’s a stunning footwork solo towards the end–where the feet are flying fast enough that it sounds like machine-gun fire!
By contrast, if you search for “la bottine souriante 2011” on YouTube, you should be able to find several videos of the current lineup of the group. This one unfortunately has clipping issues on the sound, but you CAN see Éric Beaudry over on the side making with the footwork with a guitar in his lap, and the guys with the horns kick in fairly quickly. Of note as well is the dancer on the stage, Sandy Silva, whose primary function in the group does in fact appear to be dancing. This one is notable because I recognize what they’re playing–it’s “Landslide Village Medley”, a.k.a. “Medley des Éboulements” from Rock & Reel! And, this one is only a partial, but again there’s M. Beaudry there on the side, and Sandy Silva dancing all over the stage.
La Bottine remains an active band, although that’s a bit hard to glean from their website–the YouTube search is a much better indicator. AND! AND! I am seeing rumblings on their Facebook page that they do have a new album on the way. So I’d recommend keeping an eye on their site, and if you are Facebook-inclined, they have a group right over here as well as an actual fan page!
It’s greatly comforting to see that the band’s current lineup is continuing its long and proud tradition, and here’s hoping that the new album will enjoy some electronic release!