Julian May on folk

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The Independent Online
The Queen Elizabeth Hall is more a lecture theatre than a dance venue. Even the most effervescent performers have difficulty stirring the frigid gloom of the place - last time Salif Keita sang there, he actually knelt at the front of the stage appealing to his audience to get up and move. This adds to the allure of the big gig on Sunday of this year's excellent South Bank Folk Festival, the only appearance in England of La Bottine Souriante, who have been blasting their traditional Quebecois cajun celtic salsa jazz around the world for 20 years. The cover of their new CD, La Mistrine, makes their intention clear: in Bruegal's Peasant Wedding, cunningly dotted among the dancers strutting, codpieces akimbo, is the band. Here a shaven-headed accordionist in shades, a fiddler, double bass, mandolin, there a singer in pork-pie hat and matching paunch, and, jamming alongside Bruegal's piper, a sax player and a trombonist, half of their horn section. Le Bottine Souriante look quite at home.

Singer Yves Lambert started La Bottine (which means "Smiling Boots") in 1976 as a four-piece, playing old-time music "mostly at pig fairs and potato festivals". But, after the referendum in 1980, when they voted against secession, the Quebecois turned away from traditional music, so the band travelled elsewhere, absorbing other influences and musicians from different idioms. In 1990 the brass section - including a bass trombone - brought their number to nine.

La Bottine Souriante are a serious good time band - and they can really play. Stewards at the QEH beware, they won't have to get on their knees to get the audience on its feet.

La Bottine Souriante are at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 (0171- 960 4242) Sun at 7.45pm as part of the South Bank Folk Festival (to 23 Aug), which also features The Poozies, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Norma Waterston and Eliza Carthy

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