Like anybody, the Francophone have the blues from time to time. They used to call it existentialism and nowadays the bestselling novels of Michel Houellebecq exhale it abundantly. But they don’t sing the blues. Just try the latest CD of Axelle Red, apparently one of the few bluesy singers in the French-speaking world. Her voice is quite harsh, which could very well go with singing the blues. But it doesn’t really. Perhaps it’s her diction which is to blame, her perfectionism, or just the fact that she was born in Hasselt, Belgium.
To be honest, I don’t particularly like the voice of Axelle Red, but I do like her good taste. On her new album Un coeur comme le mien are some very nice songs, well written and arranged. Among them is Melcoton, in 1963 the only hit-chanson of Colette Magny (1926-1997). Now, thát was a French blues singer! At least that is what often has been said about her. Magny herself preferred to be compared with Léo Ferré, chansonnier par excéllence. For both of them singing often was a way to (rather militantly) spread a message. Magny was certainly influenced by Bessie Smith and other blues singers, but in the first place she will be remembered for her engagement: the way she sang about the Vietnam war, injustice, repression and environmental catastrophes. Sometimes she sounded quite bluesy, but her lyrics overshadowed rhythm and emotions.
In my next radio show at the Concertzender I will give you some examples.
Axelle Red – Melocoton
Colette Magny – Melocoton