HART-ROUGE

Also see: Official site

Qu'est-ce que c'est que Hart-Rouge? It was the first name given to a little town in Saskatchewan, Canada, near the Montana border, which eventually became Willow Bunch. It is also the name of a plant which grew on the prairies, and of a type of tobacco the Metis Indians smoked. Most importantly, it is the name of a riveting Montreal-based band known for their jaw-dropping harmonies, virtuoso musicianship and incendiary live performances.

Band photo

At the core of Hart-Rouge are a trio of siblings, Paul, Michelle and Suzanne Campagne. They grew up in Willow Bunch, one of only a few French-speaking communities in Saskatchewan, and the tension and interaction between the French and English cultures, language and politics flow through their music. There are seven children in the Campagne family-six girls and one boy-and all of them have a musical bent. Their influences range from James Taylor to Rickie Lee Jones, with a healthy dose of French chansonniers. The siblings began performing together in the 70's at folk festivals under the name Folle Avoine. Later Paul, Annette, Michelle and Suzanne formed Hart-Rouge and established themselves as one of Canada's leading bilingual bands. In the 90's Annette left the band, and their music shifted to a more roots-based sound. They added two exceptionally talented musicians-Michel Dupire on percussion and Davy Gallant on myriad other instruments-and developed their present sound.

Throughout the past decade, Hart-Rouge has produced a remarkably diverse discography and toured in Canada, the US, France, Estonia, Sicily and Vietnam. They've also performed on stage or in the sudio with some of the most respected French singer-songwriters including Francis Cabrel, Claude Léveillé, Robert Charlebois, Daniel Lavoie and Gilles Vigneault. Their 1988 self-titled debut and 1991 release, Inconditionnel, won the ears of French Canadian radio, and they earned a SOCAN award for one of the most played songs of the year. Inconditionnel was also featured on So Many Miles and Words Between Us, a one-hour television special that picked up a silver medal at the Houston International Film Festival. Each year since has been marked by a new release. In 1992 they recorded a French acoustic-roots Christmas album, Le dernier mois de l'année. Their first English project was 1992's Blue Blue Windows, an album that took its name from the band's stunning a cappella version of Neil Young's "Helpless." La Fabrique, released in 1994, was named for their memorable French adaptation of James Taylor's "Millworker." For their 1995 release, Bonsoir Québec, they joined their voices with the gospel sounds of Louisville's Keith Hunter and the Witness for Christ Choir and blended their very different musical roots-white and black, French and English, Catholic Hymns and Protestant gospel.

Hart-Rouge's latest disc, their first US release, is Beaupré's Home which highlights the band's harmonies-the kind of harmonies only siblings can have, anticipating every movement and blending beautifully. The musicianship is rich and melodic, and shows off their striking virtuosity. The songs are in English and French, with a little Spanish and Mic Mac added for good measure. They include great originals, a few chansons traditionnelles, and songs by Connie Kaldor, Nanci Griffith, Roy Forbes, Zachary Richard and Lennie Gallant. Beaupré's Home is getting a lot of air play and will undoubtedly bring Hart-Rouge thousands of new fans. Their highly successful appearances at Johnny D's in May and at the Newport Folk Festival in August have paved the way for a great concert during L'Air du temps. Toe-tapping enjoyment guaranteed.