Môsaïk by Vishtèn
It starts with bodhrán and jaw harp and a low-note drone that is felt more than heard. The next layer is a chant of “Ding ding, a ding ding ding,” first in a solo voice, then repeated in three-part harmony. More layers are added with plucked violin and accordion. So begins the traditional Cajun song “Tobie LaPierre” which serves as a great introduction to the Canadian trio Vishtèn and their newest recording, Môsaïk.
In the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, there are a number of islands that are part of Quebec. Also in the Gulf is Prince Edward Island which has some French-speaking enclaves. These Canadian islands are where Vishtèn comes from, and their music is both a celebration of their Acadian roots and an embracing of Celtic and other folk music traditions of the Canadian Maritimes, traditions which find connections stretching south to Cajun Louisiana and across the Atlantic to the Shetland Islands.
Driving percussion is at the heart of this record. Bodhrán is common as is foot percussion. (The liner notes distinguish between foot percussion and stepdancing, but my ears are not sensitive enough to know the difference between the two.) Other instruments also provide percussive roles from the jaw harp to the guitar and mandolin. It seems that often there are two or more types of percussion backing each melody. This is one of characteristics that makes me love Québécois music and distinguishes this style from other North American folk music.
The band's website points out that all these musicians come from musical families who have carried traditional Acadian music to this generation. It made me smile to see that the set “Tempête Des Glaces” is a tribute to the fiddler's grandmother who, when the CD was released, had just celebrated her 100th birthday.
In the opening track, Tobie LaPierre is lost in the woods but is quite content to drink whiskey and dance. Other songs reference magical bus rides and oceanic voyages. And the final track, “L'âme À P'Tit Jean,” again finds a protagonist lost in the woods searching for his soul which he lost to the wolves. Whether lost, on a voyage home, or tucked in safely, listeners will find much to enjoy on Môsaïk. Just be warned that listening just may lead to celebrations involving drinking whiskey and dancing and perhaps even a bit of magic. - Greg Harness
The trio offers a free download of the song “L'âme À P'Tit Jean” on their web site: www.vishten.net
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