Emile Benoit,
Vive La Rose
(Amber, 1993)

Vive La Rose is a collection of French music that has been intermixed with Scottish traditions and styles. Emile Benoit, a Newfoundlander who has celebrated his 40th 39th birthday, admits he could not remember the true name of some of the tunes. When he could not remember the name, he simply gave it a name of someone or something it reminded him of. He says that is, after all, how the oral tradition works.

I am not sure that reading the inside of the cover is not the best part of this CD. This man is hilarious! His major concern in life what to do with his hair. Buy this CD just so you can read the biography and statements of the artist -- it is worth the cost of the CD just for the cover!

Benoit's music ranges from a slow waltz in the traditional French style to fast jigs that seem totally Scottish. Some are instrumentals while others have vocals and a few are actual songs. The band comes together wonderfully and does a fantastic job of harmony and backup. The music is beautiful and great for dancing.

But Benoit should stop singing; "Lady Margaret" was an agonizing 2 minutes and 43 seconds. While I understand that part of the beauty of folk music is that any individual can participate simply by creating a ballad about someone or something, it works much better if the individual has some concept of tone, rhythm or melody and has a voice that is soothing to the ear. However, this man sounded like he forgot the woman's name right in the middle of the song and missed the next few notes, throwing his voice a few beats behind the music. Plus, he really has a nerve-grating voice that is not designed for singing lead (although he does a fine job on supporting vocals and I really enjoyed when he did those.)

Other selections included on the CD are "Christina's Cream/Tootsie Wootsie," "Neil Murray's Dinner Jig/Go to the Cape Uncle Joe/Forgotten Note," "Noel Dinn/Pamela's Lonely Nights," "Vive La Rose," "Waltz in the House," "The Land We're Walking On," "Skipper & Company/On the Road Again/Claudine," "Festival Reel/Jeff's Tune/Meech Lake Breakdown/McCormack's Breakdown," "Sally's Waltz/Wedding March," "Fight for Your Rights," "Jerry's Red Mountain Jig/Le Papier 'Le Gaboteur'" and "Brother's Farewell/Caribou Skin Nailed Around the Circle/Wayne and the Bear."

Besides Benoit (fiddle, vocals, feet), the band features Pamela Morgan (background vocals, acoustic guitar, synthesizer, tin whistles), Noel Dinn (bodran, background vocals), Kelly Russell (bouzouki, mandolin, mountain dulcimer), Christina Smith (supporting fiddle, ciolin, cello), Sandy Morris (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro), Rob Laidlaw (bass guitar), Frank Maher (button accordian), Jeff Panting (piano accordian) and Roy O'Brien Jr. (jews harp).

I really respect what Emile Benoit is doing and I only hope that I will still have the heart to sing and dance when I reach my "40th 39th" birthday. I think it is wonderful that he is trying to preserve some of the musical traditions of his time. The music on this CD is just great!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 17 May 2003

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