Oh My Darling will release "Venez danser" with a show at the West End Cultural Centre (courtesy the band)
Being on the road so much, we really connected with that idea of longing and desperately trying to stay in touch
—Vanessa Kuzina, musician
On Saturday night, the lovely ladies of local roots quartet Oh My Darling will release their first French-language EP, Venez danser at the West End Cultural Centre.
Considering Oh My Darling is such a French Quarter favourite, recording an album en français was inevitable.
"We've always had a strong connection to the French community in Manitoba, especially with Marie-Josée (Dandeneau, upright bass/vocals) being francophone," agrees guitarist/vocalist Vanessa Kuzina, a self-described francophile. "Our first performance was actually at Festival du Voyageur. We've done one French tune on each of our albums, and we've built a lot of connections abroad and in Quebec."
An entirely French EP will no doubt help Oh My Darling -- which also includes banjoist/vocalist Allison De Groot and fiddler/vocalist Rosalyn Dennett -- make further inroads in Europe as well as the notoriously tough-to-crack Quebec market. In fact, it already has; Venez danser was released in La Belle Province last September in conjunction with a tour opening for acclaimed Acadian-Canadian singer/songwriter Lisa LeBlanc. "You do get the sense that Quebec has its own industry, but we did feel like our French material resonated with our audiences."
A mix of original and traditional material, the six-song Venez danser pulls inspiration from a range of francophone music, including French traditional, Acadian, Cajun, Quebecois and, of course, the Franco-Métis fiddle tunes of their home province. Louis Riel figures prominently on the EP; "Champ de Bataille" is an adaptation of a poem the Métis leader wrote, describing the aching urge he felt to write to his mother from the battlefield.
"Being on the road so much, we really connected with that idea of longing and desperately trying to stay in touch," Kuzina explains. Kuzina says Venez danser benefitted from the ears of Norman Dugas and that working with a francophone producer was paramount to the project.
"For me, it was important to get the pronunciation right," she says. "We needed someone who understood the meaning and the different styles we were working with. When we recorded French tracks for our anglophone albums, it always felt like something was missing. I wanted to be as accurate as I could be and show respect for the language."
Of course, it wouldn't be an Oh My Darling album release party without Half Pints Brewing Co. After crafting Sweet Nostalgi-Ale for the release of 2011's Sweet Nostalgia, the local brewery is teaming up with the band again and is unrolling its limited-time seasonal brew, Saison de la ceinture fléchée, at Saturday's gig.
Oh My Darling releases Venez danser on January 26 at the West End Cultural Centre.