Lou Dalfin,
Cavalier Faidit
(Musicalista, 2011)

The Occitan-speaking area of Europe reaches historically from Bayonne, France (where it borders on the Basque Country) and the Aran Valley (in Spanish-run Catalonia), through southern France and into the mountain valleys of northwestern Italy (Piedmont). The latter remote corner of the world is the home of 30-year veterans Lou Dalfin, who have helped to maintain Occitan traditions through their performances across this vast area.

Cavalier Faidit, the title of this release, alludes to the Occitan-speaking nobility who lost their lands in the 1200s when the French launched a crusade against -- Christians. The Church didn't like some of the forms Christianity was taking in what is now the south of France, and nobles from the north wanted the land, so a crusade was launched (the Albigensian Crusade) with devastating effects on the people and ultimately, on Occitan. The disc is the third part of a trilogy that includes the less consistent (but at times brilliant) CD I Virasolelhs and 2004's L'Oste del Diau.

This 2011 release, roughly their 14th, has elements of folk, rock, Celtic, gypsy and even Cuban sounds. Founded and led by hurdy-gurdy player Sergio Berardo, Lou Dalfin works with a host of musicians from non-folk genres, such as vocalist Bunna of Italy's best known reggae band Africa Unite, Sicilian trumpeter Roy Paci, Moussu T of Marseilles' Massilia Sound System, bassist Vicio Vicini of Turin's Subsonica and Piedmontese female vocalists Le Yavanna. These combine with folk elements such as the bagpipes, accordion, violins and hurdy-gurdy.

As a result of this mix, there are a variety of sounds on the 16 tracks: "Nebla" has a real Galician feel -- think of Berroguetto. "La Frema del Rei-O'Gweddo" sounds like Irish punk-folk. "Labrit" features Turin reggae artist Bunna. "Rota d'Amont" starts as blues but morphs into an Italian rap.

"Fila" sounds like it could come from the Scottish Highlands, staring slowly and pensively as an air and rising in to a real crescendo, while "Adiu Leon" sounds like a traditional Italian dance which surprises, morphing into a rousing folk-rocker. "Lo Retorn di Corsaris" has Cuban sounding horns (Paci), with lots of hurdy-gurdy, while "Serena" begins with and features Yavanna's ethereal vocals.

All these diverse elements combine for a nice mix, with Lou Dalfin's (Berardo's) readily identifiable voice and his hurdy-gurdy nearly always present. The best and most memorable of all however is the title track, which is folk-rock with a nice little bit of electric guitar and Berardo's voice in powerful and persuasive form.

Lou Dalfin, musical ambassadors for Occitania, a country that might-have-been, have done well here. This album may have been overlooked (since not many people can understand the lyrics), but Cavalier Faidit deserves a listen.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
David Cox

4 May 2013

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