Every once in a while I feel the need to roll out my old sentimental trope lamenting the demise of the record store. I know I end up sounding like a latter day Victorian griping about cars usurping his beloved horse and buggy while what he really resents is the disappearance of the buggy whip, his favourite romantic accoutrement. Being a tactile person I sympathize on a certain level, however, not enamoured with spanking, what I miss from the record store is the experience of thumbing through stacks CDs or LPs trying to find something new.
Looking at the photo-covers, reading the liner notes, I try to determine if I might take a risk on buying it... sometimes without listening but purely on visual and intellectual reasoning. Sometimes I ask if I can listen to a spin. The price or being baffled as to what lies between the grooves is usually the determining factor. If you are a long-time collector you know what a joy it is to brag to other like-minded souls about the great deal you got on some rare or classic recording. My wife has a similar affliction when it comes to shoes and purses.
Per chance last week, I'm at the last standing record store, an independent of course, in my province. It's been around longer than the twenty plus years I've lived here. Every large city in North America still has a few independents holding out against the tsunami onslaught of the 21st Century music business...a last bastion to the vulgarians at the gates. Saints, one in all. Anyway, I happened to come across a CD by Cécile Doo-Kingué called Gris. I didn't know the artist but was intrigued by the cover, a simple but stark half- profile photo of a 30ish black woman in a leather jacket wearing a steel bead necklace. The photo exuded calm and defiance. I got the owner to give it a spin...after 15 seconds I said, that's enough and bought the CD.
NYC to Montreal
Cécile Doo-Kingué was born in New York City of parents who emigrated from Cameroon. Céline left NYC for her current home in Montreal. Doo-Kingué records in both English and French. Gris which translates as grey is a French album. But Gris is also a Montreal non-profit organization dedicated to integrating the LGBT community into the straight mainstream society. I feel comfortable in stating this album is a nod to that organization. Doo-Kingué as a gay woman has stated, “There are so many places where it’s not safe for doing something that really doesn’t concern anybody than those who are doing it. To me, the fact that people are willing to shoot us down, or incarcerate us or deny us basic rights, it just doesn’t make sense to me, because it’s consenting adults. It’s also about basic human rights. It’s not even about being queer or being straight. It’s about seeing another human being disregarded, disrespected, vilified”(owensoundsuntimes).
While her activism is important and inspirational, it is as an artist she really shines. Mixing rock, Afro-folk, soul, roots she has developed one of the most distinctive sounds to come roaring out of the belly of the Quebecois music scene in a long time. This is someone you need to hear. Like me, exiting the last record store, my treasure in hand...you'll be richer for it. On top of everything else, she's a great guitarist and vocalist.