La Bottine Souriante
Appellation d’Origine Controlee
French Canadian traditional music is certainly a strong part of Folk Alley’s diverse offerings. You don’t have to be from Quebec to sense the energy and dynamics of the fiddle, footboard, and accordion. Similar to the contra dance scene in New England (which has spread across the U.S.) those who hear it, that love it, can’t sit still listening to it. They must dance.
La Bottine Souriante formed in 1976 and soon became a Canadian favorite. Not settling for being copycats to the heroes who preceded them, the group started to experiment by adding other sounds in the late 80’s – jazz, folk, even salsa. Their audience liked the creativity as long as the group’s original stylistic foundation was in place. They have now sold over 1/2 million albums. In 1991 they added a horn section. Today the group boasts 11 members.
This discussion brings us to their latest album Appellation d’origine Controlee which celebrates their 35th anniversary. The fusion that this album presents may wrinkle a few foreheads. The brass section now seems to dominate and often feels over the top. The first song, “Cette Bouteille-la” adds a hip hop element which feels trite. The 6th song, “Andre Alain En Sol Majeur,” features a dated pop-jazz George Duke sounding keyboard which does not blend with the rest of the instruments. “La Gourmand” presents a Latin feel which the group has experimented with in the past, but here sounds out of place. “Au Rang d’Aimer” is all vocal and is way too long to present no instrument solos whatsoever.
Listening to the whole album at once makes the disconnect more obvious. Given the ensembles long history of successfully driving the tradition to meet with interesting intersections, occasional potholes should be no surprise. If Shooglenifty can go Techno, anything is possible.