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Music With Terroir

"Terroir" is a French word used to describe a quality of wine. It's not a specific region, it's that the wine tastes of the earth of that region. And those regions can get very, very specific.

For example, check out this late of a Morgan, a Grand Cru Beaujolais. So it's not just any red wine, it's from the Beaujolais region. Nor is it just that, it's from a smaller region known as Morgan. But wait, there's more. Those grey areas on the label represent the various individual holdings of Morgan, and the red part is the specific plot that the grapes for this wine came from. Some regions even get more specific, down to the individual vineyard of less than a couple of acres. The organic new-wave of winemakers even let weeds grow around the vines, animals graze, and use nothing but natural yeasts to get the most authentic terroir possible. Try to imagine what these wines could be, from a hyper-small, ancient winemaking family in Australia:

The old fortified wines that come out of these barrels is considered to be some of the finest in the world. The barrels in the photos are the entire inventory of wines going back over 100 years.

Enough about wines. I like my music to have terroir as well. I want the music to represent where the musicians come from. Now I get that most pop music and even to a degree classical won;t have this. Pop is designed to appeal to everyone, and much of the newer classical pieces are more intellectual exercises, perhaps borrowing from folk themes.

But I'm talking the folk music world I work in, and for that, the best of the best brings you right to the landscape of the place the music came from. Take this from a group who we recently had to the series:

One of our favorite bands to grace our place was Ten Strings And A Goatskin, from way up north in Prince Edward Island. The island is known for both maritime-themed tunes, as well as some pretty hard driving fiddle work. Here, the song is based on a true story that happened to the band's relatives years back. An evil banker (aren't they all?) was foreclosing on their aunt's property and house , leaving her with nowhere to live. They couldn't;t do anything about the land, but they did about the house, bringing a barge across the lake, pulling the house down and floating it across the lake to land they still owned.

Väsen, from Sweden, sounds like no other band. Olov's nyckelharpa is unique of course, but now they've gone for a little funkier sound with the bass viol of Mikael. It's still pretty clear this didn't come from any other part of the world.

One of the most unique styles of all the Celtic fiddle-centric traditions is that of Cape Breton. Rural punk rock, it's made to keep you warm during the winter. One of the distinguishing features is the piano which really drives it hard. We had Beolach to the series a couple of times, and one of the fiddlers, Andrea Beaton, has also led workshops for us. Talk about a bright beacon of happiness, Andrea just lights up a room. Here she's leading a band up in a festival in Canada. You'll not hear this music anywhere else in the world...based on Scottish fiddle music, it's amped up way past overdrive. This builds and builds to it's breathless conclusion.

I could go on, but what's the point. Cajun, irish, old-time, it makes no difference: if it's good, you know exactly where it came from.


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