La Bottine Souriante,
Chic and Swell
(Green Linnet, 1988)

Fate conspires against me in the worst of ways. I'll be driving to work and see a turtle crossing the road (and have to be late to work to rescue it.) I'll be minding my own business, driving down the road, and fate will conspire by having the DJ on the radio play a wonderful song....

I officially met La Bottine Souriante one early morning on my way to work. My favorite DJ was on the classical music station, playing his own favorite selections. I heard this song. I thought I heard the band name. I scrambled in my purse for a pen and paper, keeping my eyes on the road the whole time. I scribbled down "laboteen sourian," looked at it, and resolved to call the radio station as soon as I got into work. Not only did the DJ spell it for me over the phone, he gave me the song title and the album name. The song was "Le Batteux/La Grande Gigue Simple." (Rough translation: "The Grain Mill/The Great Single Step Dance." It sounds much more romantic in French, non?) The album was Chic and Swell. The band, La Bottine Souriante, which translates to "The Smiling Boot."

The whole darn thing was in French.

I'll be the first to admit that I love a challenge, and that I took French in high school, but that was a while ago, and my French has been mixed quite nicely with a language I made up some years before. Understanding the words of the songs was nearly impossible to me, but that didn't mean I couldn't sing them. I only hoped I wasn't singing anything too vulgar. Considering I understand perhaps every other word, I think I'm safe on that point.

The best song from Chic and Swell is "La Ziguezon." Not only can you quickly pick it up, it has a tune catchy enough to interest my 13-year-old sister, who thinks anything in another language isn't cool. The refrain alone will leave you out of breath at the end. It's fun to sing this one with other people and watch everyone struggle to keep up with the CD.

There are other great songs on this album, but to talk about them all would ruin the fun, so take my word for it and check them out!

[ by Jennifer St. Clair ]

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