As a sequel of sorts to last year's catchy throwback to French chanson, "French Cafe", a new collection of cafe-style chansons has been released by the world music label Putumayo but this time solely with contemporary singers inspired by the likes of Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf - a movement called appropriately "nouvelle chanson". The result is pleasing and sometimes quite luminous but often lacking the wine-soaked gravitas of the original artists from the 1950's and 60's. As compensation, these artists seem to embrace the world music scene with enthusiasm as they easily incorporate sounds that would seem at odds with the Gallic-centric music.
On "Au Cafe de la Paix", Thomas Fersen starts things off with a deceptively buoyant tune that describes a man waiting at a cafe for a woman who never comes. Coralie Clement brings a Brazilian bossa nova backbeat to "Samba de Mon Coeur Qui Bat", as Pascal Parisot does similarly to his ennui-filled "Je Reste Au Lit", which sounds like it would fit right in on the Riviera circa 1965. A nice gypsy jazz feel pervades both Karpatt's "Dites Moi Tu" featuring guest singer Fleur, and Paris Combo's "Lettre A P...", a downbeat waltz with an effectively muted trumpet underlining singer Belle du Berry. Cara Bruni's folkish "Quelqu'un M'a Dit" is a high point with her breathless lyrics wafting over a strumming acoustic guitar.
Global vibes abound with Keren Ann, who lends a darker, Latin-tinged tone to "Jardin D'Hiver", and Myrtille, who seems to bring a whole third world beat to "Les Pages". Sounding like a Gallic version of Men at Work, Tryo performs "Serre-Moi" with jaunty fervor. There are a couple of songs that border on the strange. Preque Oui's "L'ongle (The Fingernail)" is an odd little track about the personal remnants lovers leave behind, while the circus has apparently come to town in Amelie-Les-Crayons' "Ta P'tite Flamme" with a sad accordion accompanying her forlorn vocal. Aldebert ends the disc with the hopeful, country-twanged "Carpe Diem". It's quite a hodgepodge but one that works well together as a collection, providing ample proof that French chanson is here to stay. As with "French Cafe", Putumayo has included an informative booklet that gives a thumbnail sketch of each artist and describes the genesis of each song.