Mike McLatchey 12-September-2002 Musique d'Auvergne

In some ways, Gentiane is a collaboration between Jean Blanchard and Emmanuelle Parrenin/Phil Fromont, created to celebrate the music of Auvergne, but also to subject it to research in the manner of many French folk groups of the era. Unlike Parennin and Fromont's work from the same period, Gentiane stay a lot closer to traditional territory, although there was an attempt to bring out songs not as often heard as some. As usual with a folk outfit of this sort, the instrumentation is wonderful and diverse from mandolin to accordion to violin and much more. Many of the traditionals are made up of bourrées, marches and valses, and in general these are of the tried and true, adapted and arranged handily by this group of musicians. There is a good balance between vocal parts and instrumentals, and for once, I actually wished there were more of the former, as Parrenin is wonderful here as usual with the enchanting quality of her crystalline, fragile voice. All 12 songs vary in mood and style to great extent, perhaps eroding a sense of coherency while salvaging it by the concept of the title. So you get everything from upbeat dances to somber ballads and all points in between. How the research affected the originals is something I am not able to say, however I can say that the entirety is generally more traditional than an album from the Hexagone stable by bands such as Malicorne, Chifonnie or La Bamboche. And if you're exploring this title without looking into those first, it's likely this album will be undistinguishable from any number of folk albums.

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