Forming country music instrumentals and time signatures, Lisa LeBlanc blazes no trails, cuts no patterns skyward ribbon inks at the rodeo; she chooses to reflect and ram together a unique and personal clown barrel, the production nailing old barn rafters into this recognizable snarl of strings so often seen replicated throughout popular music in revivals a la mode. The ice cream cone flavors onward, stacking minute mystery scoop smash sandwich’d into one giant flavor, a lifesaver burrito, a partitioned parfait; guitar mandolin banjo drums and that caterwauling careening vocalist. Thematic travel cliches hitchhike, wagon cartamobile and ramble on with the stringier instruments and handclap footstomps, (contrasted later on with loud tribal drumming and metallic sheen technicalities, too), trails Americana interior forty eight states, mostly the ones that once held buffalo and were on the left hand side of Clemen’s paddle. LeBlanc is a Parisian en Etas Unis featuring Jack White’s West Virginia Steam Mucha Gothic Pillars Waterwheel Reel, worldly aware and influenced, sound enough to switch and sample. In this noiseless recording the treatment creates a dead ringer audio track; you would swear a perfect dub on a foreign film, but LeBlanc is the original. Though never ignoring the cultural riffs ripe with contrast opportunity, her newscasting reels choice words in accent seasons, the blend fusion in neon highlights (summed up summoning ritual invocation of “Johnny Cash” [“Chanson D’Une Rouspeteuse”], throaty gaul navigating octave and silence, sound effect and scream), the French vocals fitting these decidedly New World influences. [“Linges D’Hydro” is wounded solo step of guitar, contrasting and intersecting, again in range and exploration of space.]
Culturally clueless as I am, few of the francophones ring my ear initially. (CONNOR SEZS: Besoin d’ means something and I know I spelled that right but is Cinqt-vingt fifty one because google can’t complete clear space.) Associations all take a tonal header; midwestern forays haystacking classic rock and steel guitars, more Steve Miller than Canned Heat. You’ve heard these songs on some singer-songwriter alt-country hit station, strong singers and great bands. Do not confuse this deja vu with disservice or a lack of satisfaction: if you don’t speak French you’re going to listen for musical clues and draw personal reflections for interpretation.
“Cerveau Ramolli” mics a pedal-pushing opening; featuring feet in an understated spur spin and footstepping anticipation, pattern toe taps out to start. A Shelby Lynn vintage 1999 (deep cut, audio track: French). “Du Duvet Dans” sounds right at home in the Mumford & Sons civil war general store jot’em checkerboard fabric folk, lighting amps and the driving crash from the banjo mandolin back to electrified guitars. The newscaster English of “Motel” showcases itself heavily in “Highway,” “Cowboy,” “Whiskey,”and “Kraft Dinner” (which sounds like Xenia UTBBS saying, “Catholic Dinner,” perhaps, such a crowd pleaser, it has a standout cut of its own “Kraft Dinner” late in the album, a shiny acoustic jumble, a dim duet of dead end diminish), the most jarring of gentle pushes. When “Motel” eventually kicks the beat into a sludgier backalley rockaway, you really appreciate the little shifts and sounds. Genre SHIFT perhaps reflecting the romanticism that (still?) exists under a glamorous sheen of dirt reversing the country back to blues before showcasing the dissonant harmony and the passing references to a vanished hitchhiking landscape. May the French cradle the rugged American West the way they have the Jazz Age and we should have fully explored relic archetypes with real working fashion accessories.
This exploration of genre skips song to song; a few like “Motel” smash distance and style breakdown in a longer form; “Juste Parce Que J’Peux” is a lonely acoustic trip with a wide open whistle stop at ending. Existing after “Motel” is the kind of soul-searching swift nostalgia train ticket that invites melancholy. “Chanson D’Une Rouspetuse” is a rollicking slam bam typical country chicken wire drag of tempo, implying distance and travel but not so exactly as “Avoir Su,” a confessional emotional solo into an orchestrated alt-country dirge.
Lyrically the language is not mine for decoding or reference (CONNOR SEZS: I know, Shelby Lynne?); information shoots past my experience like trees I can’t identify, sub street structures I cannot blueprint, or study pupil to the eyes I do not contact. Still the sound fits snug, some solace from the swan song of summer sinking subtracting sunlight service one hundred and twenty seconds every rotation. Lisa LeBlanc has a textured cross country roadtrip through the vanishing sense of space on the wide open road, getting developed and crowded into a curious country of mercurial citizenships.
by Perkus Tooth