Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag France - Full Moon 38 - 11/23/99

Jean-Louis Murat
Delabel Editions

Gradually, Jean-Louis Murat, whose real name is Jean-Louis Bergheaud, stands out in the French musical world. From his first 7" Suicidez-Vous, Le Peuple Est Mort, released in 1981 and debated for a long time, to his last album released at the end of the summer 1999, nine albums have been recorded, to which we can add two live albums. Murat belongs to a French quality scene, however with a limited publicity, perhaps like Hubert-Félix Thiefaine, Gérard Manset, or just recently Yann Tiersen, Dominique A or Miossec. They regularly record albums, receiving coverage in specialized newspapers, but without the necessary advertising. In any case, they never had much TV or radio support, only the fidelity of devoted people for many years.

For a long time, Murat was considered a misanthropic artist, a romantic rustic or even a grumpy seducer. But he has changed his intonation for his new album. If the previous, Dolorès was very sensuous, Mustango turns over a new leaf. A lot less introspective, he has become more sensitive to the world, and draws a main line: Mustang (Tibet) - Auvergne (French region where he comes from) - Arizona (USA). The only link with Dolorès is certainly the relaxed mood - despite the solemn tone of a few lyrics - otherwise this is relatively different to the first productions, dark and romantic, desperate and poetic.

The word "Mustango" is a reference to Mustang, a small kingdom in Tibet. Anyway, if Murat looks a hermit, if he doesn't feel at ease in concert, he nevertheless is concerned about the events in the world: activist for Amnesty International for many years, for the Kurd people, against the ill-treatment of children, etc. Thus, there are some topical songs from the new album, like Belgrade or Les Gonzesses Et Les Pédés (against intolerance). Arizona is of importance to understand and feel the tone of the album. It has been recorded in U.S. - where Murat lived for four months - with, among others, Marc Ribot (guitarist extraordinaire, apart from his solo work and various, many-flavoured combos he's known for adding sophisticated guitar sounds to works by Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Zorn, among others - editor's note), the musicians of Calexico and Elysian Fields. Murat got in touch with the musicians of Crazy Horse, and was inspired by the electrical folk of Neil Young's legendary backing group. They considered working with him, and Murat finally shrank back quite impressed.

Listening to the album Calexico released last year, it obviously revived his regrets, because he contacted them last winter. Mustango is an album of encounters and mixed influences. Like the song Nu Dans La Crevasse, which is a long lament close to Cohen, Dylan, and Young, rocked by a chorus made in the U.S. (Murat also contributed to the compilation I'm Your Fan - the tribute To Leonard Cohen - with the song Avalanche IV). There is another song called Polly Jean, inspired by P.J. Harvey. Or a change of style with Au Mont Sans-Souci, filled with childhood memories and accompanied by piano and harmonica. Or Viva Calexico, strangely put in between Belgrade and Les Gonzesses Et Les Pédés, like a minimal swing and also, as a homage to, John Convertino and Joey Burns (of Calexico) among others. Jennifer Charles, the singer of Elysian Fields, interprets Bang-Bang wonderfully, and lights up Jim with her voice. We don't forget the very acoustic song Mustang, with a concise style (guitar, piano, harmonica).

In short, the eleven songs of the album divide the critics: they are either charmed or irritated. In any case, we don't have to argument the talent of Murat with this album Mustango ...

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