Multi-instrumentalist Dâvi Simard is one of the most magnetic musicians I have ever seen. I simply cannot keep my eyes off him when he performs, he has such virtuosity, energy and vivacity, and every bit of that charisma is heard on his new CD, Dâvi Simard – Violoneux.
Dâvi hails from the Lac St. Jean area of Québec where his family has been farming blueberries for generations. The cover photo of the CD is, in fact, Dâvi actually standing in one of those blueberry fields. The photo is appropriately not in colour, but in black and white with a hint of sepia, reflecting the concept that this is music from long ago, and informed by the traditions of his own family.
There are so many wonderful old songs and historic tunes, many of them quite crooked, on this gorgeous recording. I was privileged recently to hear it performed in its entirety at the Festival Mémoire et Racines in Joliette, Québec. Dâvi played fiddles and feet (absolutely driving foot percussion!), while surrounded by some nine or so fiddles and the amazing guest musicians who filled out his band.
Why so many fiddles, you ask? Because Dâvi has chosen to play the tunes the way they were played in the old days, in pretty unusual alternate tunings for the violin. Normally, the four fiddle strings are tuned to the notes GDAE. For this recording, Dâvi has used tunings FCGD, GDAE, AEAC# (Pendu), AbDbAbEb, AEAE (Vielle), CCGD, ADAE (Grondeuse), and GDGD (Vielle en Sol). Each of those tunings gives the violin an other worldly sound, often with sympathetic vibrations. These sounds become music that is big enough for a single fiddler to fill a small country dance hall, because, after all, this music was made for dancing.
Dâvi Simard is one of those musicians who puts his own virtuosity and creativity at the service of the traditional music he chooses to play. There is a great respect here, and great care, in paying tribute to these melodies which Dâvi has discovered through exploring the repertoires of venerable players of past generations.
Sources for the music here include Virtual Gramophone, the Canadian Museum of History, the archives of venerable accordionists Phillippe Bruneau, and Gilles Paré, the folklore archives of both the University of Laval and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. While there are a number of invited guests playing on the CD, (including David Brunelle, David Boulanger, André Brunet, Olivier Demers, André Marchand, Pascal Miousse, Stéphanie Lépine, Jean-Francois Berthiaume, Louis-Simon Lemieux, Gaston Nolet and Daniel Roy), the vast majority of the music and production has been created solely by Dâvi Simard himself in his own recording studio. This CD is absolutely a reflection of the hugely talented musician that he is. Not only fiddles, but also foot percussion, banjo and guitars, voice, arrangements, sound recording, editing, photography, graphic design; it’s all Dâvi’s work.
And the final tune on the CD is truly an ear worm; “Le Cotillion à Amable Jalbert” is a fantastic tune that is played en vielle for a lovely genteel square dance, but as a listenable piece, it grows over time to become a part of you.
Dâvi Simard has truly put his heart and soul into this recording. For lovers of traditional music, this is an absolute jewel of a CD. You can buy it through his Bandcamp website here: