Those prolific fellows in Le Vent du Nord are back again with another album, following on the heels of last year’s live set Mesdames et messieurs! On La Part de Feu they incorporate a few ideas from other avenues of world music, particularly Celtic and American roots, that they’ve picked up on tour. But mostly, they continue to do what they’ve always done, perform traditional French Canadian music with an ear toward modern sounds.
Ironically, this comes through most clearly on what is probably the oldest song. On “Montcalm,” a jaunty tale set in the 1758 Battle of Canada, Simon Beaudry, Nicolas Boulerice, Rejean Brunet and Olivier Demer are joined by a horn section; the result is a sound reminiscent of another band, one of the grandfather’s of the Quebecois music scene, La Bottine Souriant. Not surprising, given how closely interrelated all these bands are; I saw Simon Beaudry sit in on guitar and bouzouki with La Bottine when that band played a festival in Vancouver in March of ’09. It’s one of my best musical memories of the year.
The rest of the album is a mix of upbeat Quebecois songs and tune sets with a couple of slow, mournful ballads. An air of melancholy runs through many of the songs, as befits an album whose title is a French idiom that translates to the English phrase “to cut one’s losses.” A dobro makes a brief appearance in one of these slower tracks, “La Mine,” and hurdy-gurdy shows up in the upbeat, moving “October 1837.”
And they’ve worked some very clever polyrhythms into their repertoir as well – “Elise,” a chanson in waltz time, breaks into a second section with feet clogging in reel-time, while the melody remains a waltz. They tie it up neatly with a set-ending waltz, “Ecris-moi,” a traditional song set to a new melody written by Beaudry.
A couple of times, the production (by the band) verges toward new age overproduction, but only briefly, and as soon as they break into the next reel or jig, all is forgiven. This is another winner from Le Vent du Nord.