I’m not sure that anyone quite knows what to expect when you throw this combination of genres and words together, and least of all does one expect it to be the invention of a young Swiss trio living in the foothills of the Alps.
I think it is safe to say that the European music scene haves never seen a band like this before, and they have brought their unmistakably unique sound to the UK for a whirlwind non stop tour that has lasted twelve days, with their last night in Cork, Ireland.
Until their live performance in Bristol (unfortunately I was late to watch them open for Bellowhead at the Roundhouse), I had only listened to them on scratchy and authentically rustic sounding records (of which they have five) and at first I was amazed to discover that the band were in fact only put together seven years ago.
…ranging from the guitar licks of the sixties to the thrashing sounds of punk in the eighties…
Their sound seemed to be a project of a bygone era. However if you listen more intently you can hear that they are a culminating force of influences, ranging from the guitar licks of the sixties to the thrashing sounds of punk in the eighties, they centre it around an eighteenth century French, Cajun base to produce that authentic grass roots sound that makes it their own. They are not after a crisp sound that shows off the perfection and price of their recording equipment. Instead they opt for a rough and raw, unpolished end product, courtesy of amplifiers from the sixties and slightly worn instruments to graze, muffle and take the sharp edge off their sound. It is replaced by the ‘scratchy rock n’ roll’ that Joni Mitchell identifies and the songs are pulse raising, foot stomping and infectious.
I had the opportunity to interview this intriguing trio just before they performed at a peculiar venue called St Bonaventures Parish Social Hall in Bristol. The space itself is an unexpected treat and allowed for the personalised and warm community spirit that is needed for a band so willing and able to engage with their audience on such a personal level. By the end of the gig the band were in the middle of the room, handing over the prized banjo to a member of the audience as we all danced around them in ritualistic fashion. Robin (singer, guitarist and washboard player) later pointed out that they were playing with their amps turned down due to noise restrictions, though this didn’t seem to limit the contagion of dancing crowd members. Xavier (drummer) echoed through the room as Cyril (singer, fiddle, accordion) and Robin switched frantically between down South instruments. The energy was electric and impossible to resist. A natural charisma born of passion was the core of their performance.
…a sound that evokes the past joys of rock n’ roll but adds the edge of a twenty first century twist…
Earlier discussions with the band were centred mainly around the development and future of their music as well as their collaborations as I was desperate to know what inspired such a creation. Their most recent record, Bye Bye Bayou, was recorded in New York over eight days, a little longer than their usual time. This may have a little do with their collaboration with John Spencer for the record who had some specific ideas for the album. None the less, they did not consider this a restriction, as he allowed them full artistic freedom. As this was one of the first occasions inviting outside influence into their music production, it can only be said that a mutually respected musical partnership can do wonders for creativity. They also had a several unused tracks after the session, which they may later release or perhaps bring back to the studio for another recording.
One of my favourite records of theirs is the album collaborated with Hipbone Slim, who they had played a few tracks with the previous night in Oxford. Both artists are part of the Voodoo Rhythm Records collective, which has created a platform for rock n’ roll revival. Every artist on the label has a sound that evokes the past joys of rock n’ roll but adds the edge of a twenty first century twist – Mama Rosin could not be a more fitting band. They are soon to work with the French/Canadian band Moriarty, who are musically very different, but maintain the same attitude towards preserving musical identity, which appears of central importance to the band. I personally think that they are a band to be discovered and anyone that does will quickly find their world inescapable. They live a life dictated by their musical integrity and this is their greatest and most inspiring quality.