Wed, Nov 5, 2014.
Despite lots of talk. significant good will, and decades of immersion in the schools, the music world of New Brunswick is still very much two communities. Maybe that will always be the case, but it has strong implications, especially for the English music side. The Acadian scene is far better established, and has a proven track record of major hit artists, including international ones, such as Edith Butler and Roch Voisine. Voisine was the very first Canadian artist to score a diamond album in France, for sales of a million copies of his Hélène album in 1989. Voisine received the Order of Canada just this week. These days, you have Caroline Savoie wowing them in France on that country's version of The Voice. Les Hay Babies have become national stars as well.
And then there's Lisa Leblanc. She's been a star in the making since her late teens, when she won the Granby International song contest in 2010. In 2012, she released her self-titled first album to huge success. It sold 80-thousand copies, a platinum album in Canada. And that's pretty much all in New Brunswick and Quebec, at a time when hardly anyone is selling enough albums to qualify for gold. So lets put that in perspective. It makes her the biggest-selling star on the East Coast these days, more than Joel Plaskett, David Myles, Jimmy Rankin, Rose Cousins, Matt Andersen, all those folks. But she is virtually unknown in the English parts of the Maritimes, her accomplishments ignored in most media.
Perhaps this will change that. LeBlanc's new disc is a completely English affair, called Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted. This wasn't about trying to appeal to English Canada, crossing over like Celine Dion. It's part of who LeBlanc is, a modern, bilingual folk musician who has been exposed to a lot of new experiences in the past couple of years. In the whirlwind success of her album, LeBlanc has travelled overseas several times, playing major festivals, gone back and forth across Canada, and all across the U.S. as well. If you don't know, she describes her sound as folk-trash, basically a high-energy, rough and rowdy modern folk sound, as she thrashes away on the banjo. It is a unique sound that certainly has resonated with Quebec and Acadian audiences, most people still with strong connections to rural living and music. But it's also perfectly in tune with what has been happening in other North American scenes, as festival acts such as Mumford and Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show have found out. So LeBlanc is simply following the path that is opening up for her, and growing as a musician and writer as well.
There are six songs here, including one instrumental, and a cover of the old folk standard, Katie Cruel. The title track is the instrumental, as LeBlanc and her band get into a Spaghetti Western mood. Gold Diggin' Hoedown is a great example of her folk-trash sound, a banjo tune at full-throttle with a punk band behind her. You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I Do Too) is more folk styled, but builds into that loud sound. And it gives you a good indication of her modern lyric writing, plus her flashy banjo skills too. Please, somebody nominate this for a bunch of East Coast Music Awards.
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Bob 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).