_,:.. :2, ‘1
almost 30. She quickly made up for lost time. however, and in the process also achieved a certain noteriety for her brash lifestyle and her outspoken attitudes to taboo subjects (at least in Ireland) like abortion and drugs.
‘Yeah. well, I was a bit wild for a bit, I suppose, and l was definitely a late starter. although I had been singing Irish traditional music in pubs and sessions in Galway for years. and I used to support people like Mary Black and Maura O’Connell when they played Galway. It was Eric Visser. who is Dutch and basically a classical rnusican by nature, but had come to Galway to study Irish music, who encouraged me to think about making a real go of it as a singer.
‘He had been a friend for years. but it really started when he asked if I would record a couple of songs he had written. and that eventually led to
the lime! and Emotional album in I985.
He had a very successful record in Holland with a tune named after my daughter, but decided to come back to Ireland. and he has been my producer ever since.‘
Her debut album. released initially on a small label and then picked up by Warner Brothers, established Coughlan as a name to watch. and subsequent releases have seen her develop a trademark amalgam of folk
'? [V i ,1
Mary Coughlan: distinctive stylist
roots and jazz phrasing, with a side- step in to what she describes as ‘the tnore radio friendly stuff' on the more rock-orientated Uncertain Pleasures (l990).
‘l‘vc always listened to a lot ofjazz and blues, especially Billie Holiday. of course, but also people like Frank Sinatra or Sarah Vaughan. and also blues singers like Bessie Smith and Muddy Waters. All of that has become part of what I do.‘
Her most recent album, the live set Love For Sale (recorded for Demon after an acrimonious parting with Warner Brothers) is her most overt tribute to the inﬂuence of those jazz greats. but she is currently without a record contract.
‘The Demon deal wasjust a one-off. They wanted me to do a country album, but I didn‘t really want to. I like country well enough, but it's not for me. I think what we will do is work in some new material on the live gigs. and then ﬁnance a recording ourselves, and take it from there - either we’ll look for a record deal, or we‘ll put it out ourselves. If] had the rights to that first album I would be a wealthy woman, because it sold a lot, but we handed them over to Warner Brothers.’
The Mary Coughlan Band play a! the Morherwell Concert Hall on Mon 2.
mm— Fast Eddie
It’s been a good couple of months for lovers of traditional Cajun music, with Eddie LeJeune about to follow in the path of Balfa Toujours for a short Scottish tour. Like Christine Balfa, LeJeune is the child of a Cajun legend, but his own standing in the music is almost as high as that of his late father.
Automobile accidents have claimed more than their share of great Cajun
players, and lry LeJeune’s death at the ‘
hands of a drunk driver at the age of 27 in 1955 robbed the music of its greatest accordionist. Eddie was only five at the time, but took up the instrument in earnest, and was an important bread-winner in the destitute family while still a child. He has chosen to resist commercial blandishments to perform in a more pop-influenced fashion over the years, and still plays the music in the genuine traditional style.
‘Cajun music has grown more popular in the past ten or fifteen years, and a lot of musicians have chosen to try to change with the times. I’m not interested in that — I still play the songs the way I learnt them when I
"‘V‘ ‘x‘ »3\
k . .
Leo, Eddie and Hubert: Cajun kings
I was growing up. I like to play with just
; a trio, because you can control the
I music better that way. When you have
. more people in the band, you can lose
! the personal feeling and expression, and that is the heart of the music.’
, LeJeune is a virtuso accordionist,
: and is also a fine singer in the
; distinctive Cajun manner, which has
i much in common with the high,
! lonesome sound of bluegrass, but with
i its own distinctive rhythmic swagger
g and poignant, underlying melancholy.
1 He first toured the UK with the singer
| n. l. Menard in 1990, and has been
: back several times since. For this
I visit, he will be joined by the great
I Cajun fiddler Leo Abshire, and guitarist Hubert Maitre. Not to be missed. (Kenny Mathieson)
1 Eddie LeJeune plays The Assembly
l Rooms in Edinburgh on Fri 29.
rm:- Deceptiver simple
Pierre Bensusan: not always obvious
‘l’m a Frenchman, but an unusual one,’ reveals Pierre Bensusan. ‘I’m also a iiorth African Jew. When I was young, I lived with my parents in Algeria, and they were supportive of the - independence movement, so you see I have an understanding of the colonial experience.’
The Scottish concert by this. exceptional guitarist and singer has been moved by the promoters from Edinburgh’s French Institute to another venue, in protest at that government’s policies in the South Pacific. ‘I do understand symbolic action like moving the venue,’ says Bensusan. ‘Up to now I didn’t think that those events, nuclear tests and
such, could affect people like me, but we have to take responsibility for what’s happening.
‘Yet I don’t like the way that all French people are put in one box, because the majority in France are against the tests. We know that it’s very bad for the people out there. We feel, I feel, very sad and ashamed; embarrassed because the politicians in charge never really see how the rest of the world sees us. It can be dangerous in France to be too outspoken against it. I mean, we are a nuclear power; but I’m proud of this rising - this saying “no more!” ’
For all his musical lyricism, delicacy and passion, Bensusan is no political nail: his most recent album contains a setting of part of Havel’s inauguration address and a good number of the original songs have lyrics by Philippe Val. ‘He’s the editor of Charlie Hebdo,’ Bensusan explains. ‘That’s a magazine that’s even more satirical than Canard Enchaine. I mean, establishment figures read Canard. No one like that would read Charlie.’
(in the purely instrumental level, Bensusan’s technique formidable is in a process of change. In an echo of his early hero, Davey Graham, the British master guitarist who assumed a mythic status among the young Frenchman’s guitar-bashing peers, he has been ‘diving into Caribbean music, and trying out Black African and Arabic rhythms; getting into Madagascar’s music. Not that I’m stealing, but I find a lot in more simple styles on the guitar. I guess it’s a spiral. You see, simple styles can be very sophisticated and I enjoy simplicity, but I also enjoy telling stories that aren’t obvious.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Pierre Censusan plays the Roman Eagle lodge, Edinburgh on Fri 29.
The List 22 Sept-5 Oct I995 35