The kid meets the classic: Two biggest stars of Acadian music team up

·4 min read
Lisa LeBlanc suggested the two remake Édith Butler's old hit songs, such as La 20 and Ti-gars, with big drums, more energy and LeBlanc's trademark chainsaw banjo. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Lisa LeBlanc suggested the two remake Édith Butler's old hit songs, such as La 20 and Ti-gars, with big drums, more energy and LeBlanc's trademark chainsaw banjo. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

You couldn't find two bigger stars of Acadian music, despite the half-century between them.

Édith Butler pioneered the genre, taking the traditional music she learned growing up in tiny Paquetville on the Acadian Peninsula of northern New Brunswick, and bringing it to national and international audiences starting in the 1960s.

Lisa LeBlanc came from the equally petite village of Rosaireville and took those traditional sounds, super-charged them with rock and punk energy and invented her own genre, Trash Folk.

What Butler was in the last century, LeBlanc has been the past decade, selling 125,000 copies of her debut album, conquering Quebec and Paris, and making Acadie cool again for a new generation of francophones across the country and in Europe.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Now, the punk meets the godmother of Acadian music, on the new LeBlanc-produced Le tour du grand bois, Butler's 28th album and her first since 2013.

"I really thought I would continue singing," says Butler, now 79. "But my albums would be more soft, so when I'm older I can sit down on stage and sing some little soft songs, love songs. But Lisa LeBlanc came and took me completely out of there."

Butler and LeBlanc first met when the younger singer was just 16, the newcomer impressed the veteran.

"We were on a show together with other singers, and when we heard her, we all looked at each other and said, 'That little girl, she's going to go far.'"

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

They ran into each other several times after that, and another appearance, this time on a Radio-Canada TV show in 2018, led to the new album.

"They paired me with Édith and we did one of my songs, and she totally killed it, it was incredible. We had so much fun, and I was just in awe. She absolutely took over the stage and I was watching her, being so happy in the presence of this woman, and her rocking so hard."

"The chemistry was so sensational between us during the show, that people started asking for the album," says Butler. "But there was no album, we had just done that song for the TV show."

It was LeBlanc who worked up the courage to ask the Acadian idol to record together.

"At that time I was starting to think about producing, and the idea came to me," says LeBlanc. "I'd always wanted to hear her with my band. I felt she had so many good songs that were worth revisiting, because she's got a ton of great stuff that totally could have had a makeover for 2021."

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

LeBlanc warned Butler that she wanted to change her style away from the smoother production of her later albums, and back to the lively, raw sound of Butler's traditional Acadian music.

"She told me, 'I want to take you to your roots, I want to go to the girl from Paquetville, and take the roots of her and bring it out of your guts.' She took me out of my comfort zone, and she told me it's going to be a bit more edgy, a bit more rock, it's gonna be trad and rock."

LeBlanc suggested several of Butler's old hit songs, such as La 20 and Ti-gars, and remade them with big drums, more energy and of course, LeBlanc's trademark chainsaw banjo playing.

There were a couple of Cajun tracks, party music that Butler knows well, and even a brand new, co-written song from the pair, Dans l'bois, which they do as a duet.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Butler, the longtime pro, found she was learning from her younger studio boss.

"I have a good voice, and she would tell me,'No no, that's not the voice I want, it's too nice a voice! I want a voice more edgy and rock,'" Butler says.

"I'm used to going in the studio and making one take, but she would take it over and over and over again. Sometimes I thought, 'Oh, this is very beautiful what I did,' and she would tell me, 'It's very, very good. But let's start again.'"

So the goal was a little less Montreal, and a lot more Paquetville.

"She's from the country, rural New Brunswick, and she grew up with this culture of Acadian music, history, everything," says LeBlanc. "I really wanted to get that from her, because I felt like we hadn't heard it that much [lately], I want to hear that accent that you have, the one you grew up with."

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

That worked for Butler. She's calling it the best album she's ever made. The original plan was for the duo to tour together this year, but COVID-19 scuttled that. Now Butler says she wants to celebrate her 80th birthday next year by doing an 80-date tour.

She's definitely not sounding her age these days.

"All of my friends are playing it over and over, all day long," she says of the album."They surprised me because usually they tell me, 'Oh yeah, your album is OK.' But this time no, 'It's the bomb!'"

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