genticorum Nagez Rameurs as reviewed in Phantom Tollbooth Heel-stomping Québécois folk, anyone?

(Roues et Archets/Proper)

11 tracks / 54 minutes

This release maybe half-sung in French, but there is plenty here for any folk-lover to enjoy, no matter how linguistically challenged.

Genticorum is a dynamic, young trio from Quebec, with roots in rock and jazz, that knows its strengths and plays to them. Their selection of established songs come from a tradition formed in part by loggers and travellers, so there is a rich, vivacious masculinity to their sound that still allows for subtle fills from time to time, as well as a quiet, quirky humour. Their own additions fit well with these.

Yann Falquet plays guitar, Pascal Gemme plays fiddle (he’s also credited with feet, but I suspect that all three have those), while Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand plays flute, fretless bass and second fiddle. All sing with robust harmonies and some folky call-and-response.

The French need not be a great problem. Firstly, it is often basic stuff, clearly sung, so those with a passing knowledge of the language can pick out when there is a cat and dog incident, or when a second blow kills someone, or even join in a “laissez-moi allez jouer”.  But also, the music is so strong that lyrics can just become part of the sound – and there is a fair bit of the French version of “hey-nonny-no” and “fol-de-rol” to further integrate the English-speakers (“Turlutte Hirsute”). Song notes and some lyrics in the humorously annotated booklet are translated into English anyway.

Moreover, the other half of the disc is instrumental. “Galope Doux Bedon” is a hoedown that could be from the Albion Dance Band, while “Reel Circulaire” is as simple as the name suggests, reminiscent of when electric fiddles first came into rock. Both smirk at toe-tapping and instead get the whole leg stomping. “Valse des Poâles” is a gentler piece in 3/4 time that sounds like it has Irish cousins.

Their few slower songs have an air of the best of Amazing Blondel, largely thanks to the flute and rustic vocal timbre, although – despite its fine harmonies – “Grand Voyageur Sur La Drave” is a little dirge-like.  

Gemme’s propulsive fiddle drives this album. The way he plays it, he must need a new elbow every five years. Exuberant, joyful and filler-free, this collection oozes character, rhythm and fun.