So imagine this: You’re lost in the wilderness of Canada. Not Canada of today, obviously, with its efficient public transport and universal healthcare and that big nickel thing. This is the Canada of old, and you’re trekking through the dark wilderness and it’s snowing (duh, it’s Canada). But wait! You see a faint light in the distance and eventually you stumble, near death, into a warm, cozy tavern. Everything is comfortable and inviting. There’s a fire and a hot drink in front of you before you can even ask for it. Everyone is smiling, friendly and welcoming (duh, it’s Canada). And Les Cowboys Fringants are the band you would see playing in the corner.
They’re multi-instrumentalists, modern, folksy and French-Canadian. Guitars, piano, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo, and a double bass make up the core of their music, along with expressive, emotional lyrics. It’s like neo-folk, if there is such a thing.
Les Cowboys Fringants thrive on beautiful story songs. There’s the heartbreaking, “La Tête Haute,” (Head High), about a young man dealing with the last moments of his life. The more playful “Chêne et Roseau” about a large oak and seemingly weak reed, and a metaphor for falling but picking oneself up again (eh, maybe. My French is a little weak these days). But the songs aren’t downers, despite the sometimes serious subjects. They have a purpose, and even if you don’t understand French, the sound of lead singer Karl Tremblay’s voice still says, “Shh. Sit down. I will tell you a story.” And it’s well worth it to listen to what they have to say.