Bâton Bleu Weird and Wonderful Tales
Review by David Cox
A hybrid of styles from France, Louisiana, Mongolia, and elsewhere, Bâton Bleu is Maria Laurent, who plays Mongolian lute, banjo, guitar, thumb piano, Glockenspiel, flute, and more, and Gautier Degandt, who also plays all the above, plus bass, harmonica and tovshuur.
The French duo’s debut, Weird and Wonderful Tales, is just that, a collection of strange tales from all over that fit thematically, even if they are sometimes musically baffling.
Laurent’s clear soprano vocal contrasts with Degandt’s often bullfrog like, expressive blues voice with the banjo lending an strong Appalachian feel to the music.
Best tracks include “Yourgo” a tale of a Greek fisherman, shipwrecked, stranded and trying to survive along with “Sick Ship” (seen below in a live clip in Ferrara Italy), while "Bâton Blues" (their version of "Follow the Drinking Gourd”) tells the tale of the underground railroad to freedom, with the addition of a few modern, anti-system sentiments..
The folky, bluesy “Harry Smith” is a tribute to an American folklorist. Most of the compositions are original; “Mark Twain” is a traditional number based on the call of the Mississippi boatmen (a call from whence the writer Sam Clements took his nom de plume). A quiet, pensive Johnny/June Carter Cash “Ring of Fire” ends the disc.
With its eleven tracks, some satisfying and others perplexing, Weird and Wonderful Tales is aptly named. - David Cox