Earlier this month I opened my mailbox to find a CD copy of the latest project from Gaspé musicians Guy Bouchard and Mathieu Fournier. Both excellent fiddlers whom I’ve gotten to know over the years, they also enjoy playing Gaspesian fiddle music on the guitar in the flatpicking style. My friend Brian Morris and I have also experimented with playing these melodies on two guitars over the years and this album proves just how well suited the music is to this instrumentation.
The sonic qualities of Mathieu’s lead guitar and Guy’s accompaniment, along with their more relaxed tempos, give the listener a more contemplative space to appreciate what I’ve always considered the enigmatic beauty of these melodies. The older Gaspesian fiddle music doesn’t tend to follow the more predictable melodic contours and harmonies of 20th century fiddle music and the two guitars work perfectly to highlight the unusual and unique contours of the music. It was a joy to put this CD on the stereo and get lost in the sounds, expertly recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ike Barsalou in Gaspé. It felt like I was getting to hear this music from somewhere new and fresh and appreciate just how special these old melodies are.
There are sixteen tracks of guitar duets on this new album. All the selections are drawn from fiddlers around the Coast, much the material learned from various archival collections. Several of the tunes come from fiddlers in Gaspé’s English-speaking communities. For example, there are pieces learned from recordings of Erskine Morris, Bill Lucas, James Henry Conley, Cyril Devouge, and Tunny Hottot. As well, Guy and Mathieu have also been learning music from other Gaspesian families from Fox River, Petit-Cap, the north coast, and the Baie des Chaleurs. Here you’ll find music from Richard Anglehart, Louis-Phillipe Chouinard, Jacques Denis, Léon Francoeur, Elven Keighan, Didier LeBreux, Yvond Mimeault, Ovide Riffou, and Édouard Richard. As such, the CD is also a wonderful cross-section of older Gaspesian fiddle repertoire from a wide swath of different communities across the Coast.