How very fortunate we are to have had Le Chat Mort visit Morgantown, performing at locales such as 123 Pleasant Street, the Morgantown Brewing Company and Black Bear's. Le Chat Mort (pronounced either like it sounds in English or else "le shah morr" in French) means "the dead cat" and the group took that name because they once rented an apartment and found a dead cat in the freezer. Yech--probably an anatomy student lived there, or else someone who is really weird!). Le Chat Mort is based in Stockholm Sweden, and came to Morgantown thanks partly to Morgantown expatriate Rachel Eddy, who splits time between Stockholm and Morgantown.
In any case, we were fortunate enough to host a brilliantly original group with a very unique sound. The band is led by the incredibly talented Camilla Neideman on snare drum and lead vocals; David Nilsson on banjo, Peter Strömquist on Guitar and Matti Friberg on Upright Bass. Together they create a sound that draws from the Swing era, but also incorporates elements of Jazz, Old Time, Blues and Bluegrass.
Listening to them on their latest album, I was very impressed by the vocal leads by Camilla. She has a very unconventional voice and commands the songs with great sensitivity and passion. She also has the uncanny ability to dance the Lindy Hop while playing the snare drums. Peter is perhaps the most accomplished instrumentalist of the group. David plays the banjo with sort of a cross between chromatic and Scruggs style and perhaps his forte is blending the banjo in with different types of songs than one is accustomed to hearing. Matti Freberg also does a nice job on the upright bass and seems comfortable with the variety of styles that the group plays in. For example, when they visited Morgantown they played quite a bit of Old Time and Bluegrass, and so I was surprised that their album had a number of original tracks, but mainly done with a swing jazz kind of sound, at least in my opinion.
My favorite on the album is the seventh track, My Eyes Were Closed, which really highlights Camilla's vocals. But I also like the part where the song picks up a light bluegrass rhythm. David's banjo work is particularly commendable here, showing a way to play the banjo beautifully and lyrically in a slower song, blending well with Peter's guitar. Matti also demonstrates a nice touch on bass. In this case, the band shows that it's not just about how fast you can play, but the range and sensitivity that you bring to the song with different instruments and different styles.
I should also mention that before the Le Chat Mort peformance at 123 Pleasant Street, music fans were treated to a performance by husband and wife duo Kristian Herner and Rachel Eddy, who were their usual terrific selves. My favorite from their set was a unique version of Cotton Eyed Joe, which was distinctly different from the popular version by Rednex a few years ago. Believe it or not, Rednex is a Swedish group!
I hope that Le Chat Mort will come back to America. Indeed there is a thriving American Old Time musical community thriving throughout Europe, and Stockholm has become a hotbed of interest in Old Time. Le Chat Mort is definitely a fabulous group in person, and the new album is great also.