23 Sep 2023

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Sonia & Nigel - Album Review: Sweet Paname

04 Aug 2023 // A review by Roger Bowie

In the middle of last month, just in time for Bastille Day, Sonia Wilson released the digital version of her paean to Paris, Sweet Paname.

Sonia is Franco-American, born and educated in Paris, and now resides in Auckland after a peripatetic period of travel.

Nigel Gavin is her partner and crafty guitarist, another American turned Kiwi originally from Long Island. South from long to north. Many will know Nigel from his involvement with many local bands, including the Gitbox Rebellion, Nairobi Trio and Jews Brothers Band. Eclectic, is Nigel.

Sonia Wilson and Nigel Gavin are: Sonia and Nigel.

And so it comes to pass during the time of lockdown that Sonia is stuck in New Zealand and pining for Paris and all that it has meant, and still does, and the notion is born to record a selection of songs which evoke the essence of what it means to live and be Parisienne.

And we are thus blessed.

And now to the music, a glorious mélange of traditional chanson (read, folk), some more modern folk pop and cabaret jazz. The sweet acoustic majesty of Nigel’s 7 string Kauri guitar. A range of other strings, from ukulele to 11 string glissentar to electric. An accordion is quintessentially francais (played by Tracey Collins), and an occasional appearance by the ubiquitous Pascal Roggen and his violin. Also, Anna Bowen on violin. Edith (Piaf) meets Django (Reinhardt) meets Francoise (Hardy) meets Madeleine (Peyroux).

Ma Vie en jeu sets an autobiographical scene with music by Sonia and lyrics by Bruno Morelli. My life in play and its double entendre my life is at stake. I’m on the stage, fear, or flight? I choose to play. We are thankful. Sous le Ciel de Paris and the bi-lingual Dans La Brise (Room to Breathe) invoke the Parisian sky and open places. The theme song from A Monster in Paris, La Seine, the singalong Les Champs-Elysees, a Linn Lorkin jazz groove When I See Paris Again and you get the picture if not the sound of Sonia’s beautifully French persona and perfect tones. A song written by her father; another song (Comme Toi) sung by a father to his sleeping daughter explaining today’s good fortune not enjoyed by others during the Nazi terror. Old favourites La Mer and La Vie en Rose. A song originally recorded by Francoise Hardy (Le Temps de l’amour). A song written by former French First Lady Carla Bruni (Tout le Monde) which reminds Sonia of Jackson Browne’s For Everyman; another collaboration with Bruno Morelli (Fort Interieur) and of course the Sonia Wilson original paean to Paris, Sweet Paname which bounces along the left and right banks like a panama hat in the breeze.

Whether you like your croissant with butter or just plain, whether you enjoy Pernod with your coffee in a street-side café, whether your life is pink or yellow or blue or gay, there’s a song for you in this captivating collection which started with audience requests before Sonia took it from there. A marvellous mélange which is both nostalgic and modern in a quaintly French way.

But wait, there’s more (sounding like a TV advert). If you are lucky enough to have found a physical copy, you can also enjoy an elegant booklet with words to explain the songs and original art to provide visual context. Artists from everywhere, from Tel Aviv to Pattaya, from Dunedin to Paris in a kaleidoscope of colour and form. This is truly a work of art and a labour of love. Check out my interview with Sonia and Nigel for 'It’s a Wrap with Roger', and get a glimpse of the visual splendour which houses the ancient compact of disc.

If you hurry, you can acquire a copy at Marbecks. The ultimate Francophile companion. A most stunning debut from Sonia Wilson!


About Sonia & Nigel

Sonia & Nigel are a multi-cultural acoustic duo featuring French-American Paris-born Sonia Wilson on vocals & ukulele and Kiwi-American virtuoso musician Nigel Gavin on 7-string guitar. After meeting and playing together for the first time at the Whare Flat Folk festival in Dunedin during Sonia’s first visit to New Zealand on a solo round-the-world trip in December 2014, the pair have since become a well-loved duo in the New Zealand folk music scene.

They weave French, Kiwi and American songs with their own original compositions and inspiration from their travels around the world.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Sonia & Nigel


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