A Little Subversion

Runner of the Woods performs Gilles Vigneault’s “J’ai Pour Toi, un Lac” in Nashville, TN.

When we celebrated Mardi Gras at Honky-Tonk Tues this past February, I performed a cover of a rare French song, “J’ai Pour Toi un Lac” (“I Have for You, a Lake”) by Quebecois singer, Gilles Vigneault. I have a subversive streak in me that aims to carve out a place for French music in the roots scene. And, since Mardi Gras is a day to celebrate French music – not just Cajun – why not take a chance to see if people would still dance? As this video shows, the dance floor stayed packed, and people twirled away. It may have been one of my favorite musical moments ever.

Learning Gilles Vigneault’s songs became a special project of mine during the COVID lockdowns. His music is ubiquitous in Canada, where he is widely celebrated as Quebec’s #1 folk singer (he’s in his late 90’s). In Nashville, you would have zero idea who he was – but a great song is a great song, especially here, where songwriting is accorded so much reverence. I had been experiencing a little honky-tonk fatigue, and was enticed by his unique chord progressions and unabashedly romantic lyrics. Songs with overt declarations of love are sorely missing in Americana and Country, where political messaging increasingly spoils the mood.

Quebec has the world’s most beautiful lakes. And in this song, Vigneault is offering a woman a lake as a token of his tenderness: “I have for you, a lake / somewhere in this world / a beautiful blue lake / like an eye open / on the deepest night / a chilled crystal / that trembles at your name / as the leaves do / at autumn’s breeze / and winter song / time is mirrored there / they die and fall / my days turned around / my nights upside down.” Thanks for making it happen, Nashville!

In the meantime, me and the boys are hard at work in the studio all September long. Stay tuned.