Music Review: Jill Barber - Chansons

It's been several years now since Jill Barber left Halifax for Vancouver, but hey, we still think of her as a Maritimer, an honarary one at least. Hence her inclusion today in our East Coast music run-down. After all, Barber's star rose here first, and helped bring much new attention to the region. Plus, she was the first of several young female singers to break through from the Halifax scene, including Jenn Grant, Christina Martin, Amelia Curran and Meaghan Smith.

Barber-Jill_Chansons-1024x901.jpg
Lots of English Maritimers learn to speak French here, with all the Acadian influence around. But last year, instead of increasing her skills by taking an immersion course, Barber actually went to France for several weeks. It wasn't just for a bilingual upgrade; she was also learning to sing the language, with the plan in place for this album. Chansons sees Barber fully immersed in the grand catalogue of popular song from 20th century France. Much is made of the Great American Songbook of the same years, from the legendary composers: Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, Arlen, Rodgers, Porter. These standards are sung by new generations still, even Canadians Diana Krall, Michael Buble and Holly Cole. But Barber had a different plan, to instead present the works of Gainsbourg, Aznavour, and more, the writers and singers responsible for some of the great love songs of the era, and that breezy, romantic sound of gay Paris. And, in the original language, rather than the translations that have made their way across the ocean.

Barber has been closing in on highly romantic music over her career, and in some ways, this is the culmination of that search. After all, both French and music are referred to as the language of love. She has been honing her vocal talents, each album finding her more powerful, not in volume but in emotion. Edith Piaf would be the best-known of the singers she's following, but this collection is more about the sound and the songs. Barber just has it, completely. The accent, the tone, the subtleties are all here. If it weren't for the fact there's no scratchy sounds on the disc, you'd think this was straight out of the 1930's to the 60's. Working with producer/multi-instrumentalist Drew Jurecka, they've recreated the sound using all those marvellous instruments. All the accordian trills, the clarinet lines, the light violins, the European touch on acoustic guitar.

You'll know lots of these melodies, thanks to the songs coming across the waves over the years, whether borrowed for instrumentals, or featured in cool European cinema. As for the language barrier for some, well, even your basic high school course should suffice, no need to struggle over jardin, fumer, melancolie, and of course, amour (in every other line). These are love songs, you're in Paris, that's a bottle of wine, figure it out. You want to wander down the Champs-Élysées? Barber has it down.

more »

Latest East Coast Music Reviews

Tomato/Tomato top the awards nominations for Music NB
Tomato/Tomato top the awards nominations for Music NB
Sep 21, 1:15 PM

Saint John folk duo Tomato/Tomato lead the way in this year's nominations for Music New Brunswick awards. The husband-and-wife team has grabbed six nominations, including those for Album of the Year, Group Recording of the Year and Song of the... more »

 Hot Toddy reunion a Harvest highlight
Hot Toddy reunion a Harvest highlight
Sep 20, 6:05 PM

On stage at Fredericton's Playhouse on Saturday, the members of Hot Toddy had more to share than just music. Bass player Tom Easley had brought along a band tour journal that had been kept in the van from 2001-2003, full... more »

Samantha Martin brings exciting blues-gospel vocals to Harvest Fest
Samantha Martin brings exciting blues-gospel vocals to Harvest Fest
Sep 18, 3:58 PM

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival is well-known for introducing new, exciting acts to the East Coast that wouldn't normally tour in this area.  They might be from Los Angeles or New Orleans, or some of the best Canadian groups... more »

Steve Hill brings Juno-winning, one-man band to Harvest
Steve Hill brings Juno-winning, one-man band to Harvest
Sep 17, 3:58 PM

As the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival celebrates its 25th year, several favourite acts from the past have been invited back, including some that haven't been around for quite awhile. Even though he lives in Montreal, this year's Juno Award-winning... more »

EARTHBOUND TRIO launches new album at Harvest gig
EARTHBOUND TRIO launches new album at Harvest gig
Sep 16, 3:51 PM

How busy is Fredericton during Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival week? It's delaying some Federal government work, that's how busy. A friend of mine, a government employee from another city, e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago to say she... more »

Amy Helm continuing Dad Levon's legacy at Harvest fest
Amy Helm continuing Dad Levon's legacy at Harvest fest
Sep 15, 3:06 PM

It was a Harvest show that went down as a classic for the people crowding in the Blues tent in 2011. Levon Helm and his great big 13-piece band rolled into Fredericton for the jazz and blues festival, and stole... more »

View all reviews for September 2015 »

About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

Share this review