French-Canadian group mixes traditional, modern

Sunday, January 27, 2002

When the sibling singers of Hart Rouge opened their concert Friday night at the Lied Center, the foundation of their music was clear: beautiful, bending harmonies and arrangements that blended traditional and contemporary styles.

Suzanne Campagne, who looked like Wynonna Judd, was the frontman for the French-Canadian group, singing lead vocals and telling stories between songs.

Paul Campagne, guitar, bass, violin and vocals, and Michelle Campagne, guitar, accordion and vocals, traded off solos and harmonies, while Daniel Couture, percussion, and Dave Gossage, guitar, mandolin, flute and penny whistle, rounded out the sound.

The two-hour-plus performance, alternating in English and French, was a rundown of Hart Rouge's last three albums � "J'ai Fait un R�ve," "Nouvelle-France" and "Beaupr�'s Home" � and included rock, folk, Acadian, ballads, Creole, a cappella and Mic Mac, a native Canadian dialect.

The lyrics often told of failed relationships or lost loved ones: a missing sailor who returns home to find his wife remarried; a French woman who watches her family sail off to Canada; a bride who is kidnapped by her three brothers on her wedding day.

However, one song, written by Suzanne Campagne, spoke of her first awareness of racial prejudice � during a dance class, an adolescent boy of mixed race rubbed his hands on his pants repeatedly, trying to get them "white enough" to take her hands. The song was touching and beautifully delivered.

Hart Rouge is not your typical "high-energy" band that relies on stage antics or loud guitars to make its point. Instead, it builds on lively rhythms, strong musicianship and subtle rock-influenced folk that can turn a venue as vast as the Lied Center into an intimate setting.