Angelina Wismes: à Barbara

Wismes1Beauty from Misery…

Listening Post 23. Barbara was one of “Les 3 B,” a triumvirate of singer-songwriters—including Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel—who defended French chanson from the onslaught of American and British pop/rock in the sixties. Her melancholy songs of survival were therapy for a cruel childhood (her Jewish family fled Paris from the Nazis and she was sexually abused by her father); her singing, almost conversational, had a raw, defiant intensity. Fifty years later, Angelina Wismes breathes new life into the songs of the mononymous chanteuse. On her debut album’s dozen tracks, Wismes—typically, like her idol, seated at the piano—offers a captivating voice that is more vulnerable than defiant. In Mon enfance (My Childhood, video 1), she sings of going back to a prewar home: “Why did I come here/Where my past crucifies me/My childhood never sleeps.” In Nantes, a woeful accordion accompanies the memory of rushing to her father’s deathbed in a rainy city, but arriving too late (video 2). Le petite cantate (A Little Cantata) is a sweet tribute to a friend who died in an accident. Jazz arrangements animate Le soleil noir (Black Sun) and Ce matin-lá (This Morning), while Le mal de vivre (Blues) has a surprise ending—happiness. Lovers of French chanson can be happy that Barbara’s music is alive—and that Angelina’s career is just beginning. (Muse Compagnie)

 


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