Raised in Lyon with the tunes his Sicilian grandmother sang to him, Julien Lesuisse set out in search of his “Sicilian soul”. Along the way he picks up on the sound of the Maghreb, incorporating a heavy dose of Algerian rai, soaked up in situ in Oran, the Algerian home of rai folk music. The result is Luci e Guai, eight tracks of exuberant Mediterranean diasporic rock.
“Ciatu di lu margiu” is the best track. It starts with an astonishing head-nodding, rai-flavored, funk-powered groove, impelled by the guitar prowess of Bruno Duval, promising great things. At 3:20 a delirious, high keening synth freakout takes root, which is finally subsumed in the same dazzling guitar work that nabbed us from the outset.
“Mano d’Oro”, another stand-out track, is actually an old Sicilian song which conveys a starkly mournful account of the loneliness of the southern migrant in a cold northern clime. It begins with an amazing, hum along guitar hook, that retreats at :55 into a staccato hiccup, urging the vocals along. In the end Lesuisse’s vocals are not up to the exhilarating groove which is set in motion here. Rather than embarking on great, soaring, declamatory flights, which one feels would be in order here, Lesuisse’s sobbing, plaintive vocals are mere accompaniment to the instrumentation. Nevertheless they do successfully convey something of the melancholy Mediterranean immigrant blues that this album is steeped in.