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Review: Les Chauds Lapins, Amourettes

Les Chauds Lapins
Amourettes
[Barbès Records BR0030]

The core of this New York-based group, whose name translates as “the hot rabbits,” consists of francophiles Meg Reichardt (vocals, guitar, banjo, and soprano ukulele) and Kurt Hoffman (vocals, banjo uke, and clarinet). A string quartet, as well as upright bassist Andy Cotton and well-known trumpeter Frank London, provide superb back up.

On Amourettes, the group’s second album, Reichardt and Hoffman demonstrate their infatuation once again with swinging French cabaret songs from the first half of the 20th century. The most obvious influence on both of the group’s albums seems to be the famous Charles Trenet, but Amourettes also features four songs by Mireille and Jean Nohain and two by Jean Tranchant. These songwriters are nearly forgotten these days, but Les Chauds Lapins do a fine job of reviving their obscure and witty material. The fact that Reichardt and Hoffman sing in French with an obvious English accent takes nothing away from the music’s charm. In less talented hands such an approach could easily come across as gimmicky or as retro camp, but Les Chauds Lapins are endearing enough to increase the number of committed francophiles among their listeners.

Although both of the group’s albums are recommended, Amourettes has the edge over Parlez-moi d’amour, the group’s first album, in one respect: Lyrics of the songs are included along with English translations.

—Paul-Emile Comeau (Comeauville, NS, Canada)

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