2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Quebec’s Route 132—stretching 1,000 miles (1,600 km), up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspé but skirting major cities—is a good metaphor for the journey of Erik and Sonny Caouette, who specialize in folk songs about family, friendship and small-town life. And like a highway, a thread connects the duo’s albums: Nous Autres (We Ourselves), the 2015 debut that made them an overnight sensation and earned two Félix awards (Quebec’s most … More 2Frères: À Tous Les Vents

Les Cowboys Fringants: Les Antipodes

In physics, politics and romance, poles apart tend to come together. Les Cowboys Fringants are not the only musicians who explore humanity’s darker reaches with comedy and cynicism, let alone with harmony and dance-provoking chords, but they’ve been doing it exceptionally well since 1997. On their tenth album, the neo-trad folk-country ensemble offers a rousing tour of Les Antipodes … More Les Cowboys Fringants: Les Antipodes

Alex Cuba: Sublime

Dickens was right in concept but exaggerated the singularity of his age: It is always, in every era and every land, the best and worst of times. Great art often emerges from hard lessons, but sometimes songs written before a crisis rush toward our freshly frazzled nerves like first responders. When he released Sublime last fall Alex Cuba couldn’t have known a pandemic was imminent but today the music of his seventh album penetrates the haze of uncertainty … More Alex Cuba: Sublime

Le Vent du Nord: Territoires

Oz, Neverwhere, Asteroid B-612—great artists create worlds or pair real domains with fantasylands to explore larger questions. Count in this company Le Vent du Nord, vanguard of Québec’s progressive folk movement. On Territoires, they tread overlapping realms—the Québec and New France of today and of history, of the heart, imagination and aspiration. No surrealism in these territories but the ensemble more than compensates with soundscapes … More Le Vent du Nord: Territoires

Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

Song can be a pathway to survival for threatened languages. Over the past generation the 10,000 speakers of Innu in Québec and Labrador have seen a creative surge in new music. The folk-rock duo Kashtin gained prominence in their community and in broader Canadian society, especially after their songs were featured on the TV series Due South and later on soundtrack compilations. It was at a music festival in Maliotenam, an Innu First Nations … More Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

Jeremy Dutcher: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa

In the popular imagination, time travel typically involves a fanciful machine. In real life, Jeremy Dutcher visited the past using the wax cylinders of an Edison-era phonograph and digital technology that preserved recordings made in 1907. An opera singer and composer—and faithful son of the Wolastoq First Nation of New Brunswick—Dutcher dug into the archives of the Canadian Museum of … More Jeremy Dutcher: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa

2Frères: La Route

You can’t take the country out of the boy. And with 2Frères—Erik and Sonny Caouette—you can’t really take the boys out the country, either. When the retro folk-rockers dreamed big, they moved from Chapais, population 1,600 and 700 kilometers north of Montreal, to Cowansville, population 12,000 and 90 kilometers east of Québec’s culture capital. So far and no farther. Unpretentious family guys, they conquered the airwaves (with invaluable input … More 2Frères: La Route

Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II

The song Shpatsir in Vald (A Walk in the Forest) has everything—poignant dialogue between lovers about to be separated by war, a dulcet Russian waltz melody and the spellbinding voice of Sophie Milman (video 1). The lyrics were penned in 1944, but the song wasn’t released until 2018—and therein lies a story. The Soviet Union, World War II: A team of ethnomusicologists led by … More Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II

Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser

Charmingly deceptive, Galant, tu perds ton temps literally means, “Young man, you’re wasting your time,” but in practice the name of the five-woman ensemble of traditional Québec music seems as much a term of endearment as a brushoff. Their playful songs are filled with courting, flirting, unfaithful suitors and ill-fitting marriages arranged by clueless fathers. On Nous irons danser (We Will Dance), the women—Evelyne Gélinas, Isabelle Payette … More Galant, tu perds ton temps: Nous irons danser