Le Vent du Nord – Territoires
We are pretty sure there are lots of you out there who have been waiting with bated breath for this new recording from Le Vent du Nord, the preeminent progressive folk band out of Québec. Let this be your official notice that you will not be at all disappointed in this album. It is fabulous listening.
And, if you’ve never heard of this band, you’ve got a really good thing coming your way.
Territoires is the first recording Le Vent du Nord has released since the eminent fiddler and foot percussionist André Brunet joined the band last year. Some people were shocked that such a well-known and well-respected quartet would tinker with their lineup by adding a second fiddler, but let me tell you, André adds so much without changing the band’s trademark sound at all. It seems to us that this was a natural evolution; it was the way that north wind was blowing all along.
The album starts off with a really rousing piece written by Nicolas Boulerice. “Le Pays de Samuel” speaks of Samuel de Champlain and his magnificent dream, a reverie of a new country that would bridge European and Indigenous nations in this land, going beyond the religious wars and ancient dogmas. “There is still room left for that dream,” writes Nicolas. The arrangement of this song reflects the driving passion he has for Québec, which is also reflected in Nicolas’ superb playing of the vielle à roue (hurdy gurdy) on this piece.
Simon Beaudry, singer and guitarist, who hails from the village of Saint-Côme, grew up bathed in the songs of his Acadian ancestors. He is a simply beautiful singer with a lovely tenor voice and soft, gentle approach that makes him the world’s gift to love songs. “Le Soir Arrive” speaks of walking by the river one evening, dreaming of love. “Veux-tu m’aimer,” he sings. “Will you love me?” He doesn’t have to ask us twice.
Réjean Brunet (yes, he’s André’s brother) excels on every instrument he touches. He plays the mélodéon (button accordion), electric bass and bombarde on this recording and gives much of the driving force behind the riveting melodies. Nicolas’ lyrics for “Evolution Tranquille” are set to Réjean’s composition “La Marche de la Grande Noirceur.” The titular march from the great darkness may well refer to the transition of Québec from feudalism to modernity in barely a hundred years, to being a nation that (as the liner notes say) “knows no boundary beside the love of its language and the desire to fight for everything it represents.”
Fiddler André Brunet, an extraordinarily talented and passionate musician, brings stunning original compositions and fantastic foot percussion to Le Vent du Nord. His contribution to the band makes us wonder how they ever managed without him. André’s composition “Le Step à Alexis” is a thrilling three-part reel that was written for his youngest son, who is excited to explore the world as fast as possible.
Olivier Demers’ violin is a huge part of the band’s sound as well. But, he has other talents too. His composition “Côte-Nord” (North Coast), on which he plays guitar, imagines a vast wild and silent land, a bright virgin landscape where nature is everything. Olivier’s petits rêves (little dreams) have been coming to him regularly in recent years. This latest one is so evocative that we can totally imagine the landscape that inspired it. It is a gorgeous closer to the album that sends us off into dreamland.
The thirteen new songs on this album tell a story about territories – places of dreams, places of belonging, of creation. Some are mystical places; some are physical. They are places of childhood, unconditional love, New France, legends, and ever the Quiet Revolution of Québec nationalism. We can feel the undercurrent of lost love and longing and the dreams of new lives in this new world.
Check out the band’s website for more information, and buy the album. It’s amazing.