Sunday, January 02, 2011

With Apologies to Ray... (Snow in Palmdale)

"There was a cold wintry wind blowing in the desert that night. It was one of those freak snows that come down through the mountain passes and bury your car and most of the twitchy paranoia. On nights like that every booze party ends in a snowball fight, and grown men try to write their names in the snow. Meek little wives put on another sweather and turn the kettle on, while waiting for their husbands to finish shoveling the driveway. Anything can happen. You can even catch a hockey game at a cocktail lounge."

It may not rain in Southern California, but girl, don't they warn ya, it snows.

Man, It snows!!!

No, really! Snow in the palm trees! I kid you not. This errant canadien is happy.


Blogger Guillaume said...

Is there a translation of "Un Canadien errant"?

4:08 AM, January 03, 2011  
Anonymous Keith Logan said...

Careful, or they will blame that on you, and then take it out on your ass.

4:06 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Although it was written way back in 1842 or so, just after the Lower Canada Rebellion went belly up, and it was hauled out of obscurity by Alan Lomax on some Folkways album or another, I don't think it spread very far outside of Quebec until Ian and Sylvia covered it (in French) in 1963.

Our homie Leonard Cohen covered it in 1979 (again in French), and it's also been recorded by Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson, several folkie acts and others but so far the only English (well, bilingual) version I've heard is by Robeson, and that's so deep and solemn and ponderous that it's pretty much DOA. I'm sure there are English versions out there somewhere -- I just haven't tracked down a good one.


Despite the historical context, it is really about homesickness, which of course is universal, but I think the reason it speaks to so many lost Anglos is that it IS in French.

Hearing someone speaking with a Quebecois accent can move me. Hell, just meeting an American customer (I work at a bookstore) who has no clue how to pronounce his own name (Lefebvre, say, or Tremblay -- both definitely Quebec names) gets me all moody and homesick some days...

Wiki has a few English translations, of course, at, and they mention a few English recordings, but I think I'd prefer a bilingual version.

I'd love it if the Tragically Hip recorded it, a crunchy lament/swagger, full of defiance and heartbreak. Or Blue Rodeo could do a country weeper version with heartbreaking Everly Brothers harmonies all over the chorus, maybe work in some Quebec fiddle.

Or Arcade Fire, with Haitiaan immigrant RĂ©gine singing the French parts, and wailing away on accordion. How drop dead Montreal cool would that be?

Are there any good versions I'm missing, Guillaume?

11:53 AM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Hey, Keith. Good advice -- they're already ticked about how giddy I was at work that it was snowing.

11:53 AM, January 07, 2011  

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