Every year, as part of our continuing sponsorship with the Owen Sound Sun Times, The Artistic Director writes a series of 12 articles about the festival and the performers. You can find their online version of the article here
I’d like to think that my wife came to Canada because of me, but really, she immigrated because of Yves Lambert.
I met my wife at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, Australia. While it was love at first sight for me, she needed some persuading. We courted by letter for about 6 months. I went to visit while I was on tour down under. Then, the summer after we met, she came to Canada for her vacation.
My game plan was to woo her with the Rockies and the West coast. I also took her to her first Canadian folk festival in Mission, BC. One of the acts that weekend was La Bottine Souriante. She had never heard traditional Quebec music before. She dug it. Really dug it. A large part of La Bottine’s appeal came directly from the energy that spilled like a waterfall from their frontman Yves Lambert.
He’s a fantastic raconteur, a barrelhouse singer and one of the best accordion players on the planet. Yves is the consummate showman, the living embodiment of charisma. He presides over gigs like a jovial Buddha with a squeeze box.
I’ve seen Yves perform to audiences on three continents. In many of those places people were hearing Quebecois music for the first time. No matter where it was-Denmark, the US, England – the reaction was always the same. Even the most staid would be on their feet screaming for more.
It doesn’t matter that he is singing in different language, or that the intros are a franglais mash-up. His joy and love of his art shines through. It’s infectious.
In 2003, after 27 years and 14 recordings with La Bottine Souriante, Lambert decided it was time to move on. He didn’t rest on his laurels. He drew some of Quebec’s best young players to him and created the Bébert Orchestra, he released another 4 CD’s, contributed to compilations, toured constantly, wrote new tunes. He created a stripped down, trio version of Bébert for a 40 date tour. The power of that stripped down ensemble was undeniable.
In the Yves Lambert Trio, he is joined by multi-instrumentalists Olivier Rondeau and Tommy Gauthier. Gauthier plays violin, mandolin and bouzouki. His early training as a drummer informs his foot percussion. He’s played with Matapat and Antoine Dufour. Rondeau plays the acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, and vocals.
Gauthier and Rondeau are young, but they are not inexperienced.Their sound is simple and layered. While true to their roots they are definitely taking the music different places. The rhythms are more intricate. The mouth music is there, but it’s sung with non-traditional harmonies.
Music has generational changes. Every 20 years, give or take, a new crop of musicians bring their instrumental experience to bear on the tradition. They write snaky new tunes. They borrow fiddle styles from Scotland or Norway. They move the tradition forward tune by tune. The Yves Lambert Trio is bridging the gap between past and future in the Quebec tradition.
For the second time in his life Lambert is in the vanguard of a Quebec musical evolution. He is a genuine and humble man. He doesn’t have to be. He has a fist full of gold selling albums, Juno Awards, Felix awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards. He is one of the most influential of the musicians that lead the Quebec roots revival in the late 70’s. In song he is lyrical, poetic, not shy of the political or the romantic. Yves is a national treasure.
On the Monday morning after that festival in Mission, the phone in our hotel room rang at about 8:30. It was the front desk informing me that the van had been broken into. I dressed and went downstairs to inspect the damage. I never leave guitars or bags in the truck so I was more worried about the inconvenience of a broken window, or however they got in. I looked in the van. The thieves had rifled through everything. All our things had been scattered around. I was relieved and a little wounded that the box with 150 copies of my latest cd was still there… but La Bottine’s CD was gone.