What The Reviewers Say

VRCD & VRCS 322 LOUIS BOUDREAULT: OLD TIME FIDDLER OF CHICOUTIMI, QUEBEC

To the ears of this reviewer, this release is one of the very best in the fine Voyager catalog. While the name of Louis Boudreault may not be a household word for fiddlers in the United States, it is for fiddlers in Quebec. Born on July 8, 1905, Mr. Boudreault learned his fiddling skills from his father and grand-uncle. According to the liner notes "His father Idas Boudreault played the violin with a special style. His son Louis, when 11 years old, one day alone in the house, fascinated by the fact that his father had repaired a violin smaller than he had seen before, took the small violin and started to find the notes of a tune he knew how to sing, finding in a few minutes that perhaps he could do like his father. This was the start of his fiddling career." Louis continued fiddling until the 1930s when new styles of music, such as the Charleston and boogie woogie, led to a general decrease in the interest in fiddling and folklore. Louis returned to active fiddling in 1970 when he started playing fiddle again in order to enter a fiddlers' competition. After listening to this cassette, one can clearly see why he won first place in that competition!

Highly recommended. (Devil's Box)

*****

Louis Boudreault is well-known in Quebec music circles, and some of the tunes he preserved have been passed on to the younger generation of groups such as La Bottine Souriante and Eritage. This release features Boudreault's fiddle, unadorned except for his feet keeping time in the background. It was recorded in 1977, and produced by Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard, who know a good tune when they hear one. (Dirty Linen)

*****

This is an excellent album of French Canadian fiddle tunes, performed unaccompanied, except for wonderful foot tapping, by a master fiddler.

His playing is a notch above many dance musicians, showing an expertise of a man conscious of proper style and tone. There are many unusual French Canadian tunes here, with their characteristic modalities, dropped and added measures, and unusual fiddle keys (B flat or F). Some of the familiar offerings are "The Hanged Man's Reel" and "The Disputant," a tune in the "Growling Old Man and Old Woman" family. The latter also features a marvelous spoken introduction in French.

Take the trouble to search out this album; you won't be disappointed. (In The Tradition)

*****

Louis is one of greatest Quebecois fiddlers to draw horse over cat. This is a tape reissue of an LP that has been a prize in my collection since the late '70's. Boudreault was 72 when he recorded this, but he was in an extended prime of life, as his torrid "Le Reel a Neuf" will attest. Fans of French Canadian fiddling who do not already own this, owe it to themselves to obtain this as quickly as possible, to hear this master who was a main inspiration to Lisa Ornstein among countless others. His rhythm and ornamentation are priceless. THIS is how Quebecois music should sound! (Victory Review)

*****

Great old time fiddling on this one. (Disc Collector)

*****

An excellent recording of traditional-style French-Canadian fiddling. Boudreault is an excellent fiddler and I know that you will enjoy his playing. If you like French-Canadian music then you'd better purchase this. (Northern Junket)

*****

Boudreault's work represents a near obsolete style of French Canadian fiddling highlighted by short, repeated instrumental phrases accompanied by the seated musician's feet performing a "clog dance" on a hard surfaced floor. (Northwest Discoveries)

*****

Quebecois fiddler extraordinaire, M. Louis was 72 when Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard recorded him in 1977 for this disk, which first came out on LP about then and on tape a decade or so later. It is a tribute both to his exciting playing and to the dedication of the label, Voyager, that it has come back into print in this newest medium another decade later. The 15 selections here are a great representation of someone I have no qualms in calling one of Quebec's finest fiddlers ever. He was the master of that peculiar Quebec tendency to play in crooked meter, and his rhythm and ornamentation are nonpareil. Highly recommended. (Victory Music Review)

*****

[This] CD of Quebecois fiddling illustrates the tradition as it was 20 years ago in a classic recording of one of its greatest exponents. Boudreault's fiddling reminds me of Johnny Doherty in the Donegal tradition: immense power and control in the bowing, driving energy, and a sparseness that focuses on the substance of the melody. Several of the tunes on this recording have become more widely known in the past 20 years through recordings by La Bottine Souriante, Patrick Street, and others. Boudreault played an exceptionally beautiful and subtle version of "Reel de Pendu" that is not to be missed. All the 15 tunes on this CD are solo, s'accompagne seulement de ses pieds, and the production is spotless. (Dirty Linen)

*****

A nice fiddle project. It's a fine, but different style of fiddling. One of the masters of old style Quebecois fiddling accompanied only by his feet. You fiddle buffs need this. (Disc Collector)

*****

This CD, a re-release of a fine piece of field recording originally accomplished in 1977 by Alice Gerrard and Mike Seeger, is a portrait of the music of Quebecois fiddler Louis Boudreault. Mr. Boudreault was born in 1905 in Chicoutimi. His father was a fiddler. When he was 11, says Mr. Boudreault, he picked up a small sized fiddle that his father was repairing and discovered that he could play a tune. So began his long playing career.

Mr. Boudreault played some weddings as a youth, but in a seemingly ironic twist, he found that the dust kicked up by the dancers at these affairs - which lasted sometimes three days! - was unhealthy. Retiring from professional music at the tender age of 15, Mr. Boudreault began to work building houses with his father as a carpenter, and, in the winter, worked as a logger. He would pick up the fiddle to entertain friends on the weekends.

Readers may recognize this story in outline - it is similar to that of Tommy Jarrell and to many other old-time players, men who stopped playing to work for most of their lives, then came back to their instrument in later life, as Mr. Boudreault did in 1970. One result of these successive life choices is a repertoire that reflects the music of an earlier day, a time capsule.

One feature of Boudreault's music is his use of cross-tunings, both AEAE and AEAC#. Although the tunes aren't annotated by tuning, the ear can pick this feature up fairly easily due to the clarity of the recording. Even more striking is the French structure of the tunes - I was reminded of a cold foggy night in Brittany, the bombard keening in the mist and wood smoke somewhere down near a stage where the day's festival events had concluded hours before. Most of these tunes circle and circle, often never resolving in the expected way unless they move to a second, resolving tune in a medley. Heightening this effect is Boudreault's foot percussion accompaniment, driving on and on, racing the bow. Boudreault also uses effective and repeated bow rhythm - particularly the bowed triplet. The music, in short, is dance music, and dancing music as well.

To understand a little more about the roots of the hypnotic, wheel-like quality of this music, consider some of Boudreault's annotations to some of the tunes. "Brandy Reel: a dance with four couples. It was a sort of tap dance, and could last an hour. Le Reel Philibert: His wife would start dancing and when she got tired Philibert would take over ... La Grande Gigue Simple: The reel that one must play to make a good stepper dance. When the time for this reel came, everyone able would try to outdo the others and it could last for hours."

There is also history embedded in this music. "La Cardeuse et Le Grand Triomphe: The name of great triumph was connected with the deportation of the Acadians: when everything was settled, a certain group succeeded in staying at their farm, and a fiddler composed this reel in remembrance of that deed." And, on a more local level - "Reel des Petits Poissons Lac Kenogami: During the month of March the lumberjacks got together at Pere Lazard Hudon's to spend a week fishing for the little fish, take a little nip, and have Pere Lazard play his fiddle. Betting was forbidden and whoever got drunk was kicked out of camp. This way good humor reigned always and everyone stayed friends."

This CD reminds me in many ways of other CDs I have reviewed in these pages, notably the two volume Prince Edward Island Fiddling set and the CD of the music by Francis MacKay of Nova Scotia (both on the Rounder label). It is an aural window into a very specific culture of the rural past. The more carefully one is willing to listen, the more there is to learn and discover. There are some fine tunes here; the cross-tuned pieces are probably worth the price of admission to some fiddling readers of the OTH.

I am most pleased to have found that another fine traditional musician has been rescued from oblivion. (Old Time Herald)

*****

Ce disque compact de Louis Boudreault est une ré-édition d'un enregistrement réalisé en 1977 par Mike Seeger et Alice Gerrard. Le violoneux Louis Boudreault, mieux connu sous le nom de Louis "Pitou" Boudreault, ist une véritable légende dans le monde de la musique traditionelle au Québec. Menuisier de son métier, né à Chicoutimi, région du Saguenay, en 1905, Louis était fils de violoneux. Il commença à jouer du violon à l'âge de 11 ans, au contact de son père Idas Boudreault, et de son grand-oncle Thomas Vaillancourt dont il perpétua le répertoire et le style particuliers tout au long de sa vie. Son influence sur les musiciens d'ici est indéniable. Lisa Ornstein lui a consacré un excellent mémoire de maîtrise en 1985: "A Life of Music: History and Repertoire of Louis Boudreault, Traditional Fiddler from Chicoutimi, Quebec".

A l'écoute de ce disque, l'on reconnaitra bon nombre d'airs, comme "le batteux" ou "Celina Reel", qui font parties des grands succès de la Bottine souriante, par exemple. Au total, nous retrouvons sur ce disque 15 pièces qui soulignent bien le style et répertoire unique de ce grand violoneux décédé au milieu des années 80. Ces 15 pièces magnifiques, dont la plupart ont des formes "tordues", illustrent bien la richesse et la complexité du style et répertoire de Louis "Pitou" Boudreault que s'accompagne ici uniquement de ce tapement de pied qui caractérise si bien les musiciens traditionels de la province du Québec.

Musicien talenteux, Louis était également un grand conteur. On en a un aperçu en écoutant la plage 12 de ce disque, où il explique l'origine de "La Disputeuse".

Sur le plan sonore ce disque est un véritable classique. (Bulletin de musique folklorique canadienne)

Return to CD & Cassette Catalog