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Thu, Oct. 17

MUSIC REVIEW: "Le Chemin" by Jessica Fichot

Wind instruments and string sections to the fore! French chanteuse Jessica Fichot brings her band of gypsies to The Raven Café on May 14. Fichot is now based in L.A. and released an album, "Le Chemin," which translates to "The Way," in 2007.

Jessica was "born in the U.S. to a French father and a Chinese mother," according to her website, and "was raised in France in a multicultural environment. A youth spent playing music in Parisian coffeehouses and concert halls led her first to graduate from the School of Audio Engineering in Paris and then from Berklee College of Music in Boston. School was followed by a stint writing children's music for educational programs."

"Le Chemin" features an all out Le Wall of Sound, employing a total of 20 musicians spread evenly over nine tracks. Fichot herself sings lead vocal, plays piano/keys, trumpet and toy accordion. She also wrote six of the nine cuts and arranged and produced almost the entire album, recorded at Studio Purple in Los Angeles.

(Spoiler alert) Jessica sings almost entirely in French.


"Le Velours et la Soie" (translation: "Velvet and Silk)

A clever electric guitar adds a contemporary layer to the album's third track after traditional tones through the first two. A dual-violin solo in part graces and rocks. A beautiful bass line and melody provide ground cover. Jessica puts it best in the liner notes: "It's true that it's a spicy mix."

"Si ..." (translation: "If")

The band provides delights all around: a floating violin, a hushed choir of voices, a spotlight-stealing cello and even some Revolver-ish backward tape in the opening seconds where a splendid time is guaranteed for all. Jessica also opens up with lyrics that take you inside her perspectives, which include a revealing sense of self: "like a queen on a throne" and "I would reject men to follow them to their secret world."

"Dream / les Yeux Ouverts"

Jessica's only English vocal appearance on the album comes in a cover version of the timeless "Dream a Little Dream of Me," which over the past 70 years has been spun by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and, most notably, The Mamas and Papas. Fichot's unique sound on the rest of the album didn't require the support of a mainstream pop hit, but she delivered a pleasant send-up of a song that's pretty hard for anyone to de-pleasant.

In all, Fichot is an international blend of Fiona Apple and Jean Barraque. Her accordion is a bit of a shock to American ears, which are generally untrained in the instrument's musical heritage apart from band nerds in the U.S. The track, "I Will Wait for You" even features an accordion solo!

Someone definitely needs to schedule a lunch meeting between Jessica and the Putumayo record label in what could be a match made in world-bohemian-gypsy-genre heaven.

Rating: 4 out of 5 lava lamps

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