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Myriam Gendron - Ma délire - Songs of love, lost & found Music Album Reviews

Myriam Gendron - Ma délire - Songs of love, lost & found Music Album Reviews
The ambitious new album from the Canadian songwriter features thoughtful and transformative interpretations of traditional music. It is both a meditation on the past and a novel step forward.

Born in Canada, Myriam Gendron sings in both English and French, but her translation skills extend beyond bilingualism. As a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, she’s a masterful musical interpreter, transforming long-past art into present-tense vision. On her stunning debut album, 2014’s Not So Deep As A Well, she sang poems by early 20th century American writer Dorothy Parker over original acoustic guitar arrangements. It felt like both a trove of unearthed ancient folk and a fresh, immediate expression of a new voice.

Two years later, Gendron dreamed up an even more ambitious idea: to reimagine traditional music from Canada, France, and America. The concept was sparked by the discovery of “Au coeur de ma délire” (“At the Heart of My Delirium”), a Québecoise tune covered by Dominique Tremblay and Philippe Gagnon on their 1971 album Présentent Avec Le Stainless Steel Ça Roule. During a one-week residency at an old Québec mill, she recorded her own voice-and-guitar version, accompanied by sounds of nature, mill work, and her then two-year-old daughter. A few years later, buoyed by a writing grant, she chose more traditionals to cover, fused some into hybrid pieces, and crafted originals inspired by, and sometimes even borrowing from, other works of the past.

Like its predecessor, Ma Délire–Songs of Love, Lost & Found is as much a novel step forward as a meditation on the past. This quality is due to Gendron’s impressionistic approach to her material, which exudes respect but never serves as mere homage. On one track, “Poor Girl Blues,” she combines one of the oldest blues songs, “Poor Boy Long Ways From Home,” with the 1800’s tune “Un Canadien Errant” (“A Lost Canadian”), originally about the banishment of French-Canadians and famously covered by Leonard Cohen in 1979. Singing in French, she weaves a story of lost family, lost friends, and a lost country over fingerpicked guitar that nods in all historical directions at once.

Transformation abounds on Ma Délire. Gendron remakes two songs by American folklorist John Jacob Niles, including “I Wonder As I Wander.” It’s essentially a Christmas carol, but Gendron strips away religious aspects to create a secular elegy to love’s power. On two versions of the 19th century sea shanty “Shenandoah”—one instrumental, the other nearly a capella—she morphs the story of a fur trader into a universal paean to nature. Even on originals such as “La jeune fille en pleurs” (“The Young Girl in Tears”), she adapts lyrics from multiple traditional songs into a wandering rumination; with her halting electric guitar and Chris Corsano’s accentual drums, it evokes a lost Dirty Three track.

According to Gendron, what unites the crossbred pieces across this 15-track, 76-minute album are the eternal themes of love and longing. But just as important is Gendron’s own voice, a distinct, clear tool that works on multiple levels. With patient deliberation and gut-level resonance, she often sounds like she’s simultaneously intoning a children’s song and painting a portrait of complex emotion. Some singers approach similar territory—think of how David Berman talked and sang at the same time, how Daniel Johnston treated serious subjects with childlike wonder, or how Haley Fohr uses low tones to vibrate her music—but Gendron’s mesmerizing intonation has no exact parallels. Her voice is often both frank and enigmatic, grounded and limitless.

That combination makes “Farewell,” one of the few outright originals on Ma Délire, the quintessential Gendron song. It has a simple melody and story, sung as a conversation between two characters: one beckoning, one hesitant. But listen again and uncertainties creep in: Is each person hiding something? Why does Gendron drop certain lines like footnotes but repeat others like mantras? Does the dream conclusion make the whole story a mirage? Ultimately, “Farewell” is a mystery, with much to grab on to but no definite center to hold. In that way, it encapsulates Gendron’s music: plainly open about its themes and sources yet reaching depths far beyond the sum of her inspirations.

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Myriam Gendron - Ma délire - Songs of love, lost & found Music Album Reviews Myriam Gendron - Ma délire - Songs of love, lost & found Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 Rating: 5

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