Some instrumentals fiddle tunes, or sets of them are easy to imagine as accompaniments to traditional dances. But there's a second source of impulse power in De Temps Antan's music, and this one is more specific to Quebec. (Podorythmie, like some of the tunes the group carries forward, originally came to Quebec from Irish sources in eastern Canada.) A good number of De Temps Antan's songs feature close-up call-and-response vocals that date back to the work songs of the province's lumber camps. Put this high-spirited musical give-and-take together with the forward drive of the foot percussion, and you have the ingredients for a major musical rush.
It's hard to find an ensemble these days that hasn't left any traces on English-language sites on the World Wide Web, and it's noteworthy that De Temps Antan is one. This band is a local phenomenon, drawing energy from age-old community traditions, and it offers a rare local sample of a vibrant roots tradition that is perhaps less shaped than any other in North America (zydeco would be a competitor here) by external forces that work to define folk music as an aesthetic category.
De Temps Antan comes to the Ark on Monday, March 5.
[Review published March 2007]