While our primary focus here at Team GDW is to promote and share exciting independent Canadian music, our loyal readers know that we sometimes encounter a new tune from other parts of the world and simply cannot resist sharing here on our pages. Let’s be honest, after all, good music IS good music, no matter how you discover it (and equally, how is discovers you).
I recall a pair of connections that brought the music and voice of Chicago & Nashville resident, Allison Russell, to my attention a few years ago. The first came from the music of a personal favorite of mine, North Carolina musician Rhiannon Giddens, who collaborated with Russell on their Americana-folk project, Our Native Daughters. The second arrived from the recommendation of a personal friend, who strongly endorsed the music of Birds Of Chicago, a duo comprised of Russell and her husband, JT Nero, who I in turn highly recommend to anybody as of yet unfamiliar with their music.
Allison recently dropped two cover versions of tunes from popular music artists; the first being the GRAMMY-nominated Sade hit, “By Your Side,” and the second (and our focus piece), an imaginative interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” And while artists frequently release cover versions, what caught my attention here is that Allison recites both versions in French. Now, given that she previously offered a few lines in French in “Baton Rouge” (found on the Birds of Chicago 2018 “Love in Wartime” album), this did not take me completely by surprise, but certainly prompted me to seek out how an artist in Tennessee has such flair with the language – and with it, the realization that Russell’s origins trace back to her formative years in Montreal, QC. “Canadian Content” box checked after all.
Originally penned by Stevie Nicks in 1973 (released in 1974), this song about the changes and challenges of life was one that Allison openly admits being terrified to touch at first. “It is such an iconic classic and had been covered by so many, but then I thought: what would Stevie Nicks do? If she hadn’t written it, she’d find a way to make it her own,” she offers. “So, I found my way in, through translation. Little snippets of the lyrics started coming to me in French. I pondered how difficult the art of poetry translation is, and I decided to accept the challenge.”
Allison is definitely correct about the popularity of this track as a cover song over the years, with several pages of names generated when tapping in a quick Google search. Yet while there are renditions from the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, The (Dixie) Chicks, and Tori Amos, my search yields little in the way of French language interpretations. “I agonized over this translation of Stevie’s luminous lyrics. I tried to remain completely faithful to her meaning as I understand it. I tried to reproduce the beauty, inevitability and sadness in French,” Russell adds. “I have been missing the language of my Montreal childhood. Landslide or L’Avalanche, this enduring melody, this human experience, speaks for itself.”
Photo Credit: Francesca Cepero