Friday, March 21, 2014

Song of the Week: Francois Breut & Calexico - Si Tu Disais

François Breut
{originally published, March 21, 2009}
Mick Jagger once proclaimed in song, "it's the singer, not the song." In our case of the Song of the Week, this week, we argue the exact opposite. And in so doing, as we did with Train Kept A-Rollin', we explore a song as performed by more than one artist.

In this installment of SoTW, we focus on a song called Si Tu Disais. The song was written by a French pop singer and performed by his wife. Her name is Françoiz Breut and her husband's composition first appeared on her 2001 album entitled Vingt a Trente Mille Jours, which, if my French is as good as I think it is, roughly translates to "On the Flip-Side is just so dang illuminating that I can't stop reading and listening to it." Ironic, huh? Breut's original recording is a beautifully produced number whose swirling reverb-drenched guitars and soaring string section lift the song beyond the cafe jazz number that the ditty really is at its core. Breut's voice is understated and conversational, almost spoken instead of sang, allowing the song to amble along at a severely relaxed pace much like an old dog walking down a dusty road in the heat of Summer. It's not going anywhere fast or with any intense purpose. It just is. And that is enough. We tell ourselves we don't need to understand the words to understand the mood.
Move now a few years to 2004 and across thousands of miles to dusty Tucson, Arizona. The music collective known as Calexico pick up the song with the same languid pace. But now the song is sung in English and given a Spanish guitar dominant production. As is Calexico's bailiwick, the band replaces the strings with Mariachi horns and posits the lead musical refrain into the domain of the pedal steel guitar. Joey Burns' voice progresses at a similar whispered pace as Breut's, but now in English, and sung by a male, it takes on a desperate quality that was not readily notable to a non French speaker on Breut's version. The song is about escape, turning the page, stagnation, and the realization of the person speaking the words that they have come to despise the person with whom they have made a life.

Enjoy both versions and have a wonderful week.


  1. his could just be a case of which I heard first, but I think it is awful nice of Françoiz's husband for writing this song for Calexico. More to the point, for writing that melody for Calexico's lap steel and horn section, which seem to turn this song into something epic. To me that is what this song is about, that melody. I'm not so interested in Calexico's translation (but I wonder why not translate the title too?) and I think the lyrics are better suited for F's voice, which is probably why they did that concert. So, I won't be (fully) satisfied 'til I hear Calexico back her up (or another woman (Spanish?)) for the full song.

    Thanks for pulling this nice post together!

  2. I'll drop the lads in Calexico an email and tell them of your unrequited satisfaction and that they need to get a Francoiz to sing the whole thing next time. :)

  3. Just circled back to this post. Two really nice versions of one really nice song.

  4. Both versions are so painfully beautiful.