Les Chauds Lapins - Amourettes
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Les Chauds Lapins
Barbes Records (www.barbesrecords.com )

Seriousness isn’t to be expected in the instance of a musical duo whose name means “the hot rabbits” and have a picture of a rabbit astride a rooster on the cover of their latest release. Notwithstanding, NYC denizens Meg Reichardt (guitar, banjo & soprano ukulele, vocals) and Kurt Hoffman (banjo ukulele, clarinet, vocals), accomplished musicians with impressive resumes, are serious in their desire to faithfully re-create French swing music from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. And even in that endeavor, they’re doing it on their own terms. Combining early American jazz rhythms with French cabaret plays it by the book, while the use of hybrid banjo ukuleles as primary lead instruments casts the book aside.

Reichardt and Hoffman draw heavily on the inspiration of Charles Trenet, a singer and composer who jazzed up French popular music with both wit and literary depth, and the similarly inclined songwriting team of Mireille and Nohain. Les Chauds Lapins’ sprightly, skipping songs of love and human foibles tweak heart and funny bone, with violin, viola, cello and acoustic bass adding lilt and occasional melancholy. Trumpet by the always-welcome Frank London surfaces a few times, supplementing an old time feel seemingly tailor made for the present time.

The lead vocals (entirely in French) are mainly handled by Reichardt, though Hoffman chimes in often enough, and when the two voices combine (on the cover of Trenet’s delightfully odd “Le Fils de la Femme Poisson,” among others) the effect is enchanting. As is the entire album, really, in addition to being a great deal of fun. If you happen to have 45 minutes to set aside, I would suggest filling them by putting on Amourettes, curling up with the translated lyrics in hand and letting visions of hot rabbits dance in your head. --Tom Orr

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