Hard on the heels of his 2012 CD Le fou, (which is currently up for a Grammy), the Louisiana singer and songwriter Zachary Richard has released this genial album, which has an unusual backstory. A few years ago, Richard's grandson Émile Cullin announced that he wanted to make a record. Carrying on a family's musical tradition isn't that uncommon, of course, but Cullin was all of ten years old at the time; moreover, he was born with some neurological deficits (in Cullin's words, he is "handicapé... un peu mais pas beaucoup"). Richard could easily have gently put Émile off about the matter, but instead he presented his petit-fils with a challenge: if he wanted to make a record, he had to come up with some songs. What did he love? Émile's answer, j'aime la vie, became the genesis of the album's first track:
Eight of the ten compositions here are Cullin-Richard collaborations; Émile provided the ideas and most of the words; Richard (along with his musical collaborators) polished them into songs. The lyrics (and the liner notes) are in French, but they aren't hard to follow for anyone who has even a soupçon of that tongue. (Richard is bilingual and has also made records in English, but he has been a passionate advocate of the preservation of French in Louisiana.)
It should be made clear that J'aime la vie is not what typically gets called "a children's record," though it certainly will be enjoyed by children; it's musically very much a Zachary Richard record, and is of a piece with his other work, in particular with Le fou. The lyrics are light but thoughtful and inventive, and sometimes wise and profound:
Et pourtant, ce n'est pas très clairAs of this writing, autographed copies of J'aime la vie are available through Richard's official website.
Mais je me sens beaucoup moins solitaire
Sachant que te es dans l'univers.