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GROSSE ISLE - Le Bonhomme Sept Heures / The Bonesetter 

GROSSE ISLE - Le Bonhomme Sept Heures / The Bonesetter 
La Compagnie Du Nord CIE006 

This is another delightful album from the Quebec trio who take their name from the island in the St Lawrence river were Irish famine immigrants were quarantined from 1847 when 441 ships sailed for Quebec. Sophie Lavoie on fiddle, piano and vocals, Fiachra O’ Regan on whistle, banjo and Uillean pipes, and singer/guitarist André Marchand serve up a lively and captivating selection of songs and tunes. The opening track, Le Bonnehomme Et La Bonne Femme / Duffy’s, is a ripping marriage of Québécois song and Fermanagh barndance guaranteed to bring smiles and infectious foot tapping joy. The vibe continues with the title track, Le Bonhomme Sept Heures / The Bonesetter, featuring lively tunes composed by Sophie and based on tales of a mythical bogeyman. The album package includes nicely presented track notes with explanations in French and English of the tunes and songs.

There are lovely treatments of Irish jigs The Hawthorn Hedge / Jackson’s, and the air Éamon An Chnoic, but a real strength of the instrumental tracks is the combination of Quebec and Irish styles including the always infectious foot percussion and tasteful guitar accompaniment from André. This is notable in the arrangement of the reels Johnny Laughran’s / McKenna’s, which Fiachra learned from the great Belfast piper Robbie Hannon. Another set features a Quebec tune, Jack The Lad, which travelled from Ireland changing the setting and key along the way.

The songs are drawn from the canon of older Quebec and Nova Scotian singers arranged with tunes to complement the feeling. The final song, À Grosse Isle, was written by Sophie and tells the story of a woman who lost five daughters when the Irish famine ship, Carricks, sank near the coast of Canada in 1847.

I really like the freshness, musicality and fine production on this album and highly recommend you get hold of it, play it and enjoy the experience.

Gerry Jones


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine