2016 was a banner year for Jason LeBlanc, the personage behind Menoncle Jason; not only did he release his first solo album, “Dans Son Prime,” but his band Les Jeunes d’Asteure also released their first album, “paradis, possiblement” (which appeared on our year-end New Brunswick review). As I was overwhelmed with the plethora of great 2016 releases from New Brunswick, I didn’t give this release the attention it deserved in that article – but I am rectifying that omission here.
Where “paradis, possiblement” definitely belongs in the prog rock category, “Dans Son Prime” has a completely different sound – think 1950s/1960s country, with a touch of jazz thrown in. LeBlanc’s vocal delivery fits this style of music perfectly, making this project a delight to the ears.
The lyrics, however, go deeper than old-style country love songs – LeBlanc has chosen to focus on life in his native Memramcook (New Brunswick) as his chief inspiration. This results in songs about moose meat, bear traps, and card games (on the lighter side), as well as songs such as “Toute vendre” which address the darker economic aspects of living in a rural area that has struggled (as have so many similar rural regions in North America). “Rien à boire” (nothing to drink) probably echoes many a plaintive cry in countless countries when that refrigerator door is opened and – alas! – no liquor is to be found, and has a terrific jazzy bass line to boot.
Even with my limited French (and thank goodness that the lyrics are available on Bandcamp) I can tell that these songs contain more than their fair share of humor. However, even if you know no French at all, this album is well worth your time for the melodies, great songs, and retro-country flair. I’ll be curious to see if Menoncle Jason continues his lyrical exploration of issues close to home in future projects or branches out – but whatever he chooses to sing about, I have confidence it will make for great listening.