Ad­ven­tur­ers in Aca­dia

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New Year res­o­lu­tions are of­ten at­tempts at re­claim­ing our older selves, shoring up the best mem­o­ries of who we used to be. So how ap­pro­pri­ate it feels at the start of 2019 that many folk mu­sic projects are re­con­nect­ing with older cul­tures and lan­guages, re-en­er­gis­ing them with elec­tri­fy­ing volt­age. This month alone, the Spell Songs project is tak­ing place in Here­ford­shire, where Julie Fowlis, Karine Pol­wart, Kris Dr­ever and oth­ers are weav­ing new mu­sic out of Robert Macfar­lane and Jackie Mor­ris’s pop­u­lar The Lost Words book, which re­mem­bers dis­ap­pear­ing expressions. The last touches are also be­ing put to the promis­ing Oran Ba­graidh al­bum (out 2 Fe­bru­ary), in which an ex­tra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive fea­tur­ing Gwyneth Glyn and Welsh duo Bragod cel­e­brate the for­got­ten lan­guage of Gal­loway Gaelic.

This Jan­uary also gives us the sixth al­bum from Vishtèn, a long-stand­ing tra­di­tional trio from Canada’s east­ern reaches, fea­tur­ing twin sis­ters Em­manuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc and Pas­cal Miousse; they play fid­dle, gui­tar, ac­cor­dion, man­dolin, Celtic instruments such as the bodhràn, and sing. They cel­e­brate Aca­dian mu­sic cul­ture, which be­gan when French set­tlers ar­rived in the so-called New World in the 17th cen­tury, and con­tin­ued in Amer­ica’s south­ern states, where it mor­phed lin­guis­ti­cally and cul­tur­ally into the glorious sonic soup that is Ca­jun.

All three play­ers dig into these deep, twisted roots, but also de­liver melodies and rhythms that make clear their more main­stream, search­ing ideas. Elle Tem­pête is bright, Ra­dio 2-ready trad with a con­tem­po­rary alt sheen, its di­rect at­ti­tude re­call­ing artists such as Neko Case. Fleur du Sou­venir’s har­monies glow against shiv­er­ing vi­o­lins and a 70s Fleet­wood Mac or­gan line. So do the back­ing vo­cals and fin­gerclick­ing poise of the de­li­ciously ti­tled Bi Bi Box.

Not all of Vishtèn’s ad­ven­tures work: L’Autre Femme feels like a strange folk fac­sim­ile of some over-earnest mid-80s jazz-soul, while Les Sirènes à Roméo sounds like an out­take from a ques­tion­able am­bi­ent al­bum of the same pe­riod. But there is en­ergy else­where cre­at­ing rivulets that keep on rip­pling out, and dip­ping a toe be­comes ir­re­sistible.

The trio de­liver bright, Ra­dio 2-friendly trad with a con­tem­po­rary alt sheen

This month’s other picks

VRï ’s Tŷ Ein Tadau, an al­bum re­vis­it­ing Welsh tra­di­tional mu­sic in beau­ti­ful new ways (the gor­geous Aros Mae’r Myny­d­dau Mawr made this Swansea girl well up). Dressed like a per­fectly madeup Pup­pini Sis­ter on the cover of Those Who Roam, Scot­tish singer Claire Hast­ings punts for the nos­tal­gic main­stream with her sec­ond al­bum, full of co­coawarm tra­di­tional and orig­i­nal jour­ney­ing songs. Jude Rogers

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