Full Gallery: Moriarty and Mama Rosin at La Flèche d’or
La Flèche d’or on Wednesday evening served to be the perfect venue for this meeting. A former train station in and of itself, even with the rails still visible out the cracked windows, hearkens back to days when Parisians and travelers would board off to new or familiar destinations. On stage that evening saw the coming together of two similar, yet different, folk-inspired groups under one mutual, melded set. You rarely see live mash-ups, and those that do seem a bit rough around the edges, but Wednesday evening’s concert with the Franco-American group Moriarty and Swiss cajuns Mama Rosin proved it can be done.
To adopt another country’s music can be risky, the most recent notable example was Mumford & Sons, who clearly adopt the American style of folk, but are clearly not American. Moriarty, however, share that authenticity, as three of the members hold American passports even though they were born in France (they’re lucky, says this American in Paris). Singer Rosemary has family in Ohio, for instance. So for them to create and perform a uniquely States version of folk country is a completely natural extension of their heritage. They’re the personification of the melting pot, with members spanning French, American, Swiss and Vietnamese heritages. The trio Mama Rosin adopt zydeco on the shores of Geneva, Switzerland. Not exactly something you’d expect to hear coming from the land of Guyère and Villars. It was a superb surprise that proved to be a riot on stage in the best of ways, incorporating French (sometimes English) lyrics in with a style unique to Louisiana. Oh, and they spent quite a bit of time in Brazil.
The night opened with Moriarty. “Isabella” and “Jimmy” colored the first third (only Moriarty) of the concert’s entire set. “Crimson Singer” encircled Rosemary’s voice, a mournful, slightly nasal but ever powerful voice more at ease in a forgotten New Mexico saloon than a distant East Coast jazz club. Her eyes and composure alone reinforced her singing; calculated as if she was giving warning to the haphazard. Think a female Adam Turla of Murder by Death. And, while it’s been two years since The Missing Room was released, the group is writing once again with a highlight of the evening coming with a “special song because it’s very, very new.” Moriarty took to the two-week old song, tinged with a much brighter than normal acoustic guitar accented with electric. It’s more of a country pop ballad, focused around “How evil is the man…” Now that the theatrical The Missing Room is ripened and picked, this was the first taste of what’s to come.
After this portion, Mama Rosin joined Moriarty on stage. Packing it with all kinds of harmonica, banjo, upright bass, percussion and accordion, you had something that may have been more befitting of a Mumford show than a normal night in Paris. They bounded off into “Calypso Triste”, a French-English exchange that tore into a train whistle harmonica interlude that really set the rest of the evening in place. “Every Night” felt 1950s, emphasizing the vocal callbacks over violin. By now, the crowd were warmed up to the uniqueness of the night as it became more and more of a ruckus romp. That night, the two performed all the songs off of their joint 10″ collaboration for Record Store Day (Disquaire Day in French). All songs were recorded back in February at Studio Pigalle in Paris.
Mama Rosin then took over. The group was news to me, and very welcome actually. Turns out they’re performing this year’s Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, actually. Going through songs off albums and 7″ records going back to at least 2009, the trio was an impressive blend of cajun and zydeco melded with sometimes punk speeds (they’re influenced also by The Clash) or even jam bands. Think the sounds of Gogol Bordello, but cajun, three-piece and pieces of Dispatch‘s essence. The blues-y “Sittin’ on Top of the World” was the first indication that they’re a true mix of numerous, yet similar, styles. It wasn’t outright blues, but accented and original to their music. “Seco e Molhado” was more befitting, a song recorded in São Paulo and adopting South American colors while reminding to their Swiss cajun core. If Django Unchained took place hundreds of miles to the east in the bayou, the song would’ve had a potential to be the opposing lighthearted balance to a bloody ruckus. “Marilou” however brought Moriarty back out, and was a wonderful sing-along. A few Americans in the audience caught on, singing along, though not to the extent that this would’ve caught on back home in the States.
Moriarty came back out into a full on live collaboration to the end. Violins, jaw harps (“Ramblin'”), washboards and maracas (on closer “Bon Temps Roulet”) came out of the floorboards. Cohesive and instrumentally chaotic, yet successfully melding, Moriarty and Mama Rosin collaborated extremely well for such a mélange of music styles and cultures. These collaborations of two groups often are tried, but Wednesday night was a definite réussite. If only Louisiana or Tennessee could see this, people would enjoy it back home in the States.
Partial Setlist: [Feel free to comment to add missing tracks]
I Will Go
Calypso Triste [10″]
Every Night [10″]
Ginger Joe [10″]
7 Jours [10″]
How To See
Bye Bye Bayou Birdie Black
Sittin’ on Top of the World
Seco e Molhado
Casse Mes Objects (You Broke My Stuff)
Matin Pas en Mai [10″]
Bon Temps Roulet