Préhistoire du Folk

Though it sometimes sounds like an affectation, I’m careful to disclaim extraordinary expertise about this music. I am fascinated by it. I love it. I play it … I know quite a bit more about it than the average American bear. Yes, but every once in a while I am reminded about how much I do NOT know.

I’ve had a link to Préhistoire du Folk in the relevant links column since this blog began. Today, the owner of the site — Jean-Marie le Bas — contacted me about my La Roulant post. So, I went over to check out Préhistoire for the first time in some months. The concept of the site is very simple: it’s a documentary of the owner’s record collection, mostly vinyl. It’s massive and beautiful.

But you do get to a point where you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of great music I will never hear.”

And when you get to that point, banish that thought! As I scan through Préhistoire I am not encountering music I won’t hear, only music I have yet to hear. And Préhistoire brings it that much closer.

Below are some of the intriguing items from Préhistoire that I just may hear one day in the future. Thank you, Jean-Marie!

Where goest the Nik?

Cynthia and the Nik (to be named
Julietta or Giulietta, still deciding)

Some months ago I sold my Castagnari Nik in order to purchase a Dino Baffetti three-row in flat keys. This week I asked the buyer — who I will call “Cynthia,” since that’s her name — if she’d send a picture along of the Nik in its new habitat.

Cynthia reports that she is loving the box, and that she is settling on a name for her (a phenomenon worth commenting on in another post). A bandmate recently taught her Stephane Delicq’s, Les Novis. “I am still very much a novice, but the enthusiasm and will are there. With such a beautiful sounding instrument nudging me on, I know I’m in good hands … and so is she.”

They do, indeed, both look happy.

Performance, September 8

On Sunday, September 8, the trio Bon Truc will be playing at the Royal Bean, in Yarmouth, Maine, from 1:00 to 3:00. The trio comprises Gary Chapin (me) on accordéon, Steve Gruverman on woodwinds, and Barbara Truex on mountain dulcimer and percussion. Our repertoire is a quality blend of music centre France, Brittany, Alsace, and other places … plus some originals. We’ve played together for some time within the context of the dance band, Nouveau Chapeau. Recently, we started working specifically as a trio. After our first gig at the beginning of August, I felt, “Oh, yeah, THIS is why I started playing music.” It was very sweet.

So join us on September 8. Drink some coffee. Eat pastry. Listen to great music.

In Praise of AMTA Cassettes

At a rehearsal last week over at a friend’s place I spotted a cassette sitting on top of his formidable array of stereo equipment. It had a familiar look. The red italic lettering. The black bar at top and bottom. The name of the performers in white, just above the smallest text, the title, in quotation marks. There’s the circular stamp: MUSIQUE EN AUVERGNE. And the stylized AMTA logo.

This particular cassette was by La Jimbr’tée, and called Virage. The cover shows five men and one woman, an array of vielle, accordéon, and pipes.

Seeing the cassette there, I was cast into a fugue state. I was thrilled. These were the cassettes that changed everything.

I believe I have mentioned before, the role that AMTA cassettes have played in my musical life. The AMTA — Agences des Musiques des Territoires d’Auvergne — is an especially effective regional cultural organization that somehow managed to export its music to Amherst, Massachusetts, which is where the Button Box was located at the time.

In 1998, I traveled to the Button Box to pick up my first box — a red Hohner Corso (G/C) tuned very wet — and saw a bunch of these black/red/AMTA cassettes on the shelf. I picked up Frédéric Paris’s, Carnet de Bal, and Jacque Lavergne’s, Cadences d’Auvergne. After getting home, I called the store back and asked them to send  a few others, including the hardcore Bal Auvergnat duo of Guy Letur and Pierre Ladonne on chromatic button accordéon and cabrette.

All of my copies of these cassettes have either broken, melted, or disintegrated into iron dust. (All the more amazing that my friend’s were in great shape). My cassettes had lived in my car, mostly, which is never ideal for a music delivery medium. A good number of them I’ve managed to find in digital form. But that doesn’t change the magic of that discovery at the Button Box. The sheer abundance of discovery. The amount of this music suddenly to hand, this joyous, amazing music.

I’d love to hear how you discovered this music. What early finds inspired you? Feel free to add your story to the comments.

In the meantime, thank you AMTA!

Loïc Étienne

Time again for the summer festivals in France. Jackdiatonique (denizen of posted a ton of videos from his travels. Including these three of an impromptu group playing some very Auvergnat bourrées. Note the instrumentation: cabrette, diatonic accordéon, chromatic accordéon, and two banjos! Note also the foot action going on! Great stuff. Thank you, Jack.

Go to Jack’s YouTube to watch the rest.