The Slippery Stick
The Robichaud BrothersROUN 7016
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Jamie O'Brien
The excellent sleeve notes begin with a biography of the Robichaud Brothers, but then concentrate on how they acquired their repertoire and style. The latter point is crucial. As children, watching their mother and siblings, they identified finger movements and positioning on their respective instruments - Gerry on fiddle and Bobby on guitar - and later would try to emulate the sounds based on their observations.
Once they began to master tunes, family members became aware of their hidden talents and proceeded to offer advice. Soon, folk from the community and visiting musicians became influences as well. Listening to radio programs and hearing other performers expanded their repertoire. They never seemed to come across sheet music in their younger days; everything was learned by ear.
The 21 tracks present a thorough historical anthology of New Brunswick music. Led by Gerry, the brothers perform tunes that date to earlier this century, presenting numerous fiddle tunes associated with the region. Often playing in the older, more sedate style favored by fiddlers like his mother, Gerry shows tremendous dexterity in his bowing technique. Syncopation enhances the dancing qualities of the music as well.
Bobby's guitar style acts as a perfect foil for the melody lines, and provides the right accompaniment for dancers. Solid and steady, he reaches into the beat at the start of new phrases, driving the music along. He is almost metronomic, but never mechanical in providing a foundation for the music.
Many of the tunes appear to be exclusive to the French communities of New Brunswick, while others are also standard throughout older Northumbrian, Scottish and other area repertoires. But even so, hearing their different slant on such numbers as St. Anne's Reel, La Disputeuse (Growling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman) or The High Level Hornpipe" is refreshing.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz (firstname.lastname@example.org)