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Almost a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Country music = Québec.
In that post, I explained how Québec’s music roots have always been connected to a genre of French-language country music.
A couple of people I know (who are from Montréal) said I was nuts when I wrote that post. They told me nobody listens to (French) country music (or any country music). My response: “Perhaps you’re right if you live downtown Montréal, and if you base your entire life around downtown Montréal”.
I told them to just wait for a few months, perhaps a year or so. I told them with the uptick in French-language country singers and it’s resonance / ties with traditional French Canadian music, that I would bet my bottom dollar that we’d see a virtually unknown French-language country artist come to the fore and top the album charts in Québec.
They thought I was crazy…
Well… the writing was on the wall — and guess what! It just happened!
The reality (in Québec an elsewhere) is that
- many people in Québec listen to French-language country music, and
- there can often be a HUGE disconnect between our largest cities and all the rest. You get the sense that this disconnect becomes as wide as the Pacific when it comes to lifestyles and concerns lived by people who reside in the downtown cores of our larger cities, and all the rest (even the suburbs for that matter).
As usual, the rest of Québec, and the rest of Canada do not all live in downtown Montréal, Toronto, or Vancouver (on that note, one federal party leader in particular better learn this little factoid very fast, or his party will be heading straight down the tubes in October – ok, ok… no more political commentaries, I’ll behave now).
This post will make my point, and will emphasize just how wide that gulf can be (between the city – particularly the city cores — and all the rest).
Guylaine Tanguay is a French-language country singer, from the Saguenay region in Québec – particularly from Dolbeau (I actually wrote a post on her hometown last winter, which you can read by clicking HERE… (Boy… even I am surprised that I wrote a post on Dolbeau! I guess I have covered some territory with his blog after all).
Her new album, Inspiration, was one of the best-selling albums in Québec of the entire summer!
Yet, ask someone in Montréal (particularly downtown Montréal), or downtown Québec City, or downtown Ottawa (which I consider within the “Québec urban sphere of influence”) who she is, and you’ll just get blank stares.
But go elsewhere, such as the smaller cities around the province, and you’ll find a good deal of people who know who she is (you don’t even have to go very far… sometimes just as far as the suburbs such as St-Eustache, Gatineau, or Beauport).
Her fifth country music album, Inspiration Country, came out on June 16th,
All Tanguay has done was a little advertising on television, given a few concerts, and the crowds AND SALES came’a flock’in!
Here is the TV advertisement for her latest album:
Province-wide, her album has even bumped out the “Clique’s Montréal’s downtown darlings”, such as Jean Leloup and Yoan, from the top spots.
This little whirlwind named Guylaine Tanguay has the (sometimes quite stuffy) “downtown Montréal cultural class” (informally known as the “Clique du Plateau”) scratching their heads in disbelief (and me shaking my head at their disconnect from the rest of the province). I actually wrote a post on the Clique du Plateau way back when (click the link).
Whether or not you think a true media Clique exists (ie: media which all beats the same drum in central Montréal), is a question of debate, impressions, and person viewpoints. Regardless of my own viewpoints, it’s not for me to categorically say if it does or doesn’t exist (there are people with opinions all over the place, and grey comes in all shades).
However, if the Clique were to describe a general “downtown attitude” in any big city, then you could perhaps say it’s a snobby attitude, in the sense that if related media feels “their own” media circles were not the ones to launch or promote someone’s career, or if “they” were not the ones to invite an artist to their TV or downtown radio programs, then it the music must be crap (sigh x 10).
Guylaine Tanguay is one person who could be said to have proved them wrong – and in no small way.
You can check out her website at http://www.guylainetanguay.ca/
Here is an article by a “shocked” and baffled Radio-Canada (hahaha!! Love it!!!) — Click HERE.
Here is an article by the Courier de Laval (from the suburbs of Montréal, so it comes with less shock and horror than articles written from downtown Montréal – hahaha!!!). Click HERE.
You can purchase her hit album online at Archambeault at the following link: http://boutique.archambault.ca/divertissement/Guylaine-Tanguay
If you wish to purchase single songs off her album (on platforms such as iTunes), they are
- Jusqu’au bout du monde
- Crazy Arms / Dans tes brasIsland In the Stream (avec Mario Pelchat)
- Thank God I’m a Country Girl
- Je voudrais être Madelinot
- Que la lune est belle ce soir (avec Julie Daraîche)
- Me and Bobby McGee
- La fête en AcadieCrazy
- Je voudrais voir la mer (avec Michel Rivard)
- Embarque ma belle (avec Christian-Marc Gendron)
- You Are My Sunshine (avec Camille Tanguay)
P.S. Although my roots are from rural areas (I’m just as comfortable in a pair of shit-kickers as I am sneakers), I have nonetheless lived in some of the largest cities around the world and Canada. I certainly like many aspects of the larger city “downtown” lifestyles (otherwise I wouldn’t live on a subway line with a direct connection downtown). But as you can see from the above post, sometimes the snobby “downtown attitude” irks me. I have spent a LOT of time in and around Montréal’s downtown. It’s where many friends live. But like any city, Montréal’s downtown core also has its fair share of this attitude I’m referring to. Yet, like anything in life, you take the good with the bad – and there is still far more good than bad 🙂
You may recall I mentioned the singer Cayouche in the post titled “Country music = Québec”.
Cayouche is difficult to describe because there’s little in the way Anglophone singers to truly compare him with. His real name is Réginald Gagnon, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who knows him other than just “Cayouche.”
From the most basic set of information (age, genre of music, origins), you may not think there’s anything extraordinary about him:
- He’s 60 years old (singing for the public for around 20 years).
- He’s not Québécois, he’s Acadian (originally from Moncton, but I believe he lives somewhere around the Acadian Peninsula now, perhaps Paquetteville).
- His style of music is similar to a 1970’s, early 1980’s country.
But boy is he popular! And not just with fellow Acadians, or others of his generation. He draws in crowd-after-crowd of 20-somethings and 30-somethings, from all across Québec and Francophone regions of Ontario, in addition to his native Acadia.
Strangely enough, you may rarely see him on television (I have never seen him on TV — he’s more an in-person kind of act)… but a big big chuck of Québec, especially Québec City, seems to know him. Perhaps owing to certain cultural demographics in Montréal, a lot of Montréal ubanites, especially Le Plateau, may not know him… so this can serve as a good example of how there can often be a disconnect between Montréal culture, Montréwood, and what’s actually popular in the rest of Québec.
It’s as much (or more about) the mystique and legends surrounding Cayouche (kind of like that crazy, almost unbelievable story of what Detroit’s Rodriguez “Sugar Man” is to South Africa), how and where he performs, his persona, the way he looks, the words he chooses when composing his songs, as much as it is his actual tunes.
- Santa Clause (belly and beard) goes Willie Nelson (bandana, guitar and all) – now you have the look,
- After leaving the military, he lead a wandering life on the road, performing from bar-to-bar across Canada, bit-by-bit leaving a name for himself… especially in Francophone regions of the country. The urban myths aren’t true that he would down a 24 pack during his performances, but he does bring a few beers on stage to lubrifier his performances as the night goes on (“lubricate” doesn’t quite work in English, like it does in French) – now you have the mystique and legend factor,
- He’s illiterate (having to compose songs purely from memory), with a very rural style of heavy-accented regional French, often crass, which makes his lyrics unlike anything else standard recording artists would choose. His language is sometimes crude, sometimes not so politically correct (such as his well-known drinking & driving song, L’alcool au volant), and the lyrics are smash hits with a lot of younger guys (you’ll see him at outdoor concerts across Québec, and guys in their 20’s, à moitié chaud, will be holding a beer over their heads, singing along with him, word-for-word) – now you have the words,
- He’s always smiling, always laughing, telling jokes and coming across as a simple, humble, next-door type of bon Jack. You’d think he was just one of the guys from the audience who decided to get up on stage while everyone was having a good time, and just add a bit more to the mood – with the only difference being he is the show! – now you have the persona.
I get the impression he’s doing a good number of summer festivals each year, and quite a number of other performances in bars & pubs. Usually someone who relies on these types of venues for their bread-and-butter will tend to stay in the shadows of popularity, but not Cayouche. People across Québec know where he’ll be, and they turn up in droves! He has become one of the biggest selling and best known Acadian artists in history. It’s how he’s done it (by staying out of the concert halls and away from Montréwood) which lends to much of his appeal with Québécois, Acadiens and Ontarois – an average Joe Blow, like everyone in his audience. There’s an amazing connection.
In closing, the one thing that has me a bit stumped is his accent. I’m not a linguist or an expert, but to me, although his vowels definitely have an Acadian accent, his vocabulary and intonations don’t always sound like Chiac French from his Native Moncton. And there seems to be a good number of differences between the way he speaks and Acadien Peninsulaire French where he currently resides (lots of what he says sounds like it could almost be Sudburois French, or Ontario “Nickel-Belt French”; a type of unique accent spoken in Sudbury, Ontario — I would have almost pegged him as being from Sudbury if it wasn’t for his vowels. Even some of the things he says makes me think of Rivière-la-Paix French from the Peace River district in Northern Alberta, where I lived for a while as a child). Feel free to offer your comments on this if I’m wrong … it’s a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s owing to his many years spent travelling around, meandering from place-to-place on the road, bar-to-bar, which could have given him a mixed-style of hors-Québec French accents. Avec sa personalité et son choix de paroles, son français est pas mal franc comme un deux par quatre. But regardless, it makes me, and everyone else smile any time he speaks. It’s great, and it’s part of his unique character which makes him so popular in Québec.
We don’t have many characters like Cayouche in Canada — this kind of legendary icon. Lets keep his flame alive and support him by getting out there and buying his work. He adds something very special and unique to Canada’s music culture. That alone deserves our support.
His music is for sale through various venues. When searching for it, please stick to officially sanctioned sites and do not pirate (he says he’s still working – and he seems to love what he’s doing and his fans – plus it’s likely his bread & butter… so don’t rip off his work. He’s a good dude, so return in kind and pay for his songs).
Somebody seriously needs to make a movie about this guy!!