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Dead Belgian
Love and Death: The Songs of Jacques Brel
CD on Limefield Recordings
Cat No: LFCD010 , Stk Ref 79440

Released on: 09 July 2012

Magazine Review
Andy Delamere (percussion) Fionnuala Dorrity (vocals, guitar and ukulele), Simon James (sax, flute, mandolin and clarinet) nd Matthew Word(accordion) comprise the Liverpool-based band Dead Belgian.

In a act of pure genius, this group which formed in 2007, have come together to honor Belgian singer-songwriter, Jacques Brel in their new CD, 'Love & Death: The Songs of Jacques Brel'.

The band clearly understood the depth of Brel’s muse. He wasn’t for everyone; his lyrics are sharper than a serpent’s tooth at times and his harmonies are often dissonant, the story lines are often sad and gloomy, but those that love Brel will be captivated by these authentic renditions and the talents of the band.

The collection starts off with the gorgeous ‘Madeline,’ the one straight ahead love song, then Dorrity revs up her pipes honorring us with “a voice that stinks of whiskey” on ‘Au Suivant’. Her generous phrasing recalls Piaf, but she kicks it up several notches. This performer can belt, rattle and roll.

‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ is a classic French torch song that because of its beautiful melody has been widely covered; yet this version is quite superb and truly stands alone. The percussion trails the voice and allows room for James and his tender flute and Dorrity’s strumming.

Though the next one, ‘La Haine,’ is sung in French, the mood still conveys the harsh brutality of love’s destruction. Matthew Wood’s delightful accordion plunged us into the impoverished ports of Paree, as does the next track, ‘Amsterdam,’ though this one has instruments that soar, with engaging poignant solos. He and Dorrity are in synch with each other’s “hot muggy vibes.”

Andy Delamere’s spare snare is nothing to sneeze at as “they piss hot tears.” 'Le Bougeois’ follows with more infectious beats, as Dorrity’s voice becomes part of a three-gun salute. Wood’s juicy accordion riffs and James’ clarinet ooze evocatively between the snappy cadences and jagged meters.

‘Le Moribond’ assumes an almost flamenco-like rhythm and boasts a grand outro, but for a progressive taste of Brel’s comic side, ‘Jacky’ does the job. “If I could be for one little hou, beautiful and an idiot at the same time…”

‘Jaures’ has a strikingly rich intro. On this ballad, our main singer assumes a completely different persona. She lets loose her sweet head voice as she laments over the oppression of war, while asking: “Why did they kill Jaures?”

The last tune, ‘My Death’, defies its sombre theme because the players are so instrumentally full of spit and vigour. Exotic scale tones inch, then shove against each other like irate passengers on a rush hour subway. The existential message rings loud and clear, though: “What ever lies behind the door, there is nothing left to do.” And if that message doesn’t make you question your mortality, try this: “My death waits like a bible truth/At the funeral of my youth.”

Only a great group like Liverpool’s Dead Belgian could make this slice of life sizzle so effectively. Kudos to Dead Belgian for breathing oxygen into Brel’s poignant, dark poetry. Whatever project strikes their fancy next, I’m all ears.

Lisa Torem


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