LABEL : LES RIVIÈRES SOUTERRAINES
ALBUM IN A SENTENCE : A CONFIDENT GALLIC TAKE ON AMERICAN FOLK AND ROOTS MUSIC
Part of family life is knowing when to get out of the way. Sometimes love looks like allowing and facilitating close relatives that you love to own the space of a special bond that neither involves nor concerns you. You just have to trust that everyone, including yourself, benefits from whatever grows in that space and stick a spike in any jealousy.
Extrapolating that thought wildly to an international level, listening to Marion Rampal’s new album Tissé with British ears is a reminder that, for all our country’s parochial, chauvinistic obsession with our ‘special relationship’ with America, there is a kinetic beauty in the bond between France and the USA that has nothing to do with ‘us’, our rivalries and multi-faceted insecurities.
Marion Rampal is a versatile singer from Marseilles who can comfortably cover all terrain between interpretations of classical songs and rock and roll. Tissé, translated into English as woven, sees Rampal produces a bilingual Gallic take on American folk and roots music, with elements of blues and jazz entwined on tracks like ‘Tisser’ or ‘Maudire’. That means that Marion Rampal inhabits similar territory to the likes of Norah Jones. The authenticity of the album is found in a tenderness in the playing and production. Tissé is an album for an afternoon in the café with a newspaper. It is familiar and hospitable but does not slip into smug self-satisfaction.
Album opener ‘A volé’ combines a simple but seductive guitar riff and a beautiful chanson lyric with some deep-fried piano playing. One of the English sung tracks, ‘Reminder’, is Leonard Cohen-esque in its ability to frame poetry on the fleeting nature of love within a sparse, spacious reverb heavy atmosphere. What strikes about this album is the sense of collaboration; not just the give and take between performers, but of confident cultures weaving together. On ‘D’autres soleils’, the rhythm and feel of chanson combines with pizzicato harmonics and the effect is both fully city and prairie.
That collaboration reaches a pinnacle on ‘Calling To The Forest’, a duet with longtime collaborator Archie Shepp. This song is gossamer thin and utterly compelling, like holding a fallen leaf to the light and tracing its translucent veins in the sun. Rampal and Shepp’s parts knot together like vines around a tree. Blazing and breathtaking, it belongs on every best of 2022 list.
Marion Rampal is a confident artist drawing on her influences and experience to create a strong statement of identity. She lives in the tension of Les Bleus, playing folk in the city and chanson for the backwoods. In early 2022, there is a reminder in Tissé of something important. When the French and the Americans get on the same page, they often bring out something in each other that is profound and beautiful, democratic and free. The world could hope for a little more of that kind of weaving together.