Wednesday, March 9, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MARIE-JO THERIO - CHASING LYDIE
She's one of the biggest female stars in francophone Canada, and has made pretty good inroads into the market in France. The Moncton artist has recorded and performed a lot in English, but for the French market. As a bilingual New Brunswicker, sometimes the songs have called for it, and she's even sung in Chiac, that unique blend of French and English that is particular to the Moncton area. But now, we get her first full-length album sung in English.
The first edition of the set came out a week before the download and CD, as a two-L.P. set. That was part of the whole concept. It's an album about a person from the early to mid-20th century, so that's the appropriate medium. Chasing Lydie is about a relation of Therio's, a great-aunt named Lydia Leblanc, who lived in Massachusetts and was also a singer, back in the 1930's and 1940's. Therio had always heard lots of stories about her, but never met her. Lydie was apparently quite the brave person, to choose this career in the States, at a time when Al Jolson and Ruby Keelor and the like were the models. Therio wanted to know more about her, so she bought a van, and headed to Massachusetts to, in fact, chase after Lydie. At least she could find the stories, and get a feeling for what it must have been like.
Lots of Acadians moves to New England for work in those days, and there were lots of relatives there she had never met. She got some real stories, but also did a little crafting, embellished a bit because, as she says, she is a story-teller. This didn't turn out to be complete biography, it's more about the art than the person.
You're not going to find another English album like this, and really, not many in any language. Chasing Lydie is meant to be listened to in one sitting, straight through, as you would watch a movie. It is a story, it is a performance, it is a sound collage. It's full of sound effects, captured conversations, refurbished 78 rpm records, the scratching and popping of old vinyl. The first sound you hear is wiper blades, no doubt the start of the journey to chase Lydie, from the front seat of Therio's batttered-up van. Characters come and go, and it's not something you're going to get in one listen. It's like a Robert Altman film, with it's layered dialogue and sounds.
Why English, since she's an Acadian, singing about another Acadian, and largely for her regular Francophone audience? Therio says she didn't set out to make an English album, it's that English imposed itself on the project. She was dealing with family members who no longer spoke French in Massachusetts. As most of the events she heard about were in English, it because the working language of the project, and therefore she wrote the songs that way.
Look, this is no pop album, it's very theatrical, very much a Francophone style of performance and recording, so it won't be an easy transition for Anglophones, even though it's in English. But, it's really interesting and fun, and you'll have to get your head around the idea you're watching this as much as you're listening, as use your imagination. Then you can have a lot of fun with it.