Monday, March 7, 2011

In review--hot rabbits swing Parisian-style

Les Chauds Lapins
Barbès Records

Imagine the Golden Age of French music (1920-1940s) revisited by an American bluegrass player and a side musician for They Might Be Giants. Meg Reichardt (Roulette Sisters) and Kurt Hoffman (The Ordinaires) pull of the Parisian accent and the atmosphere of the French swing and chansons on Amourettes. On the surface you might imagine that you’re sitting in a Parisian café with the smell of roasted beans wafting past your nose and Parisians rushing pass you, but the song lyrics border on the absurd at times and recall Godard’s cinema with Parisians cloaked in bohemian black philosophizing about love, sex, and death. The recording lends itself to daydreaming and provides wonderful dinnertime music.  I enjoy listening to the album while I'm cooking dinner.

Musically, the songs have been arranged for strings, acoustic bass, trumpet, plucked banjo, guitar, and ukulele, that’s right, ukulele. The plucky songs bounce along like a spring day. On the opening track, Reichardt sings in a slightly flat girlish voice, “Ever since the day when my destiny had me meet you on my path.” But then on the third song, the lyrics travel south even reaching a point of nonsensical. I enjoy the musical portion of the songs and the instrumental arrangements. The songs wax nostalgia and provide the perfect background music for a casual dinner party or for revelry on a rainy day.

You’ll find plenty of classics by Trenet, Grapelli , Reinhardt and other French luminaries. The track, je t’aime with its swing guitar and violin is the crowning glory on the CD. It promises to stick to your thoughts and send you bouncing along your way. Fans of Putumayo’s cafe and acoustic series will enjoy amourettes.  Charming in its own way.

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