A French-speaking singer and storyteller of international reputation, Michel Faubert is a one-of-a-kind entertainer and the prime mover when it comes to the storytelling revival of the late '90s in Quebec. A close relative of the folk group La Bottine Souriante almost from their beginnings, he also befriended the avant-garde music collective Ambiances Magnétiques. His music builds bridges between the rural tradition and postmodern rock.
Faubert comes from Rigaud, a small town near Montréal. Born in 1959, he spent his teens listening to rock music. In 1978, he took a shine on the Quebec folk revival led by groups such as Le Rêve du Diable, La Bottine Souriante, and the artists recording for the label Tamanoir. He embarked on ethnological studies. Traveling throughout Quebec and Acadie (French-speaking regions of New-Brunswick and Nova Scotia), he began to collect stories and songs. It is during such travels that he met Ernest Fradette in 1988. The old-timer was a natural storyteller. Faubert underwent an apprenticeship that lasted a few years, learning everything he could from the man he still calls his "storyteller father."
All the while Faubert had been playing with folk ensembles, singing and playing violin in all kinds of trad festivals in Quebec and Europe, even touring France with accordionist Philippe Bruneau. In parallel, he performed with Montreal rock groups like Métropolitain, Janitors Animated, and kept close ties to André Duchesne's Quatre Guitaristes de l'Apocalypso-Bar. In 1990, musicians from all these formations contributed to his first production, a self-released cassette titled Maudite Mémoire. Duchesne, a founding member of the avant-garde collective Ambiances Magnétiques, opened the doors to its record label and a proper debut, also titled Maudite Mémoire, came out in 1992 (it was later reissued by Mille-Pattes). Backed by Duchesne's avant-rock group Locomotive, the album couples traditional lyrics with modern music. Carême et Mardi Gras, released in 1995, continued in the same direction, featuring members of Locomotive, the metal group Voïvod, and the folk a cappella singers Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer, a group co-founded by Faubert and La Bottine's Yves Lambert in 1993.
More accessible than its predecessor, Carême et Mardi Gras yielded a hit in its title track, introducing Faubert to a wider audience. But more and more the artist felt the need to be acknowledged as a storyteller too. He had been presenting shows in schools since the late '80s, but grownups had deserted his 1993 show La Fille aux Mains Coupées. Now with a higher profile and a record contract with La Bottine's production company Mille-Pattes, he created the solo storytelling performance Le Passeur, which he toured in francophone countries. It earned him the gold medal in the category Tales and Storytellers at the Francophone Games held in Madagascar in 1997. A live album came out a few months after his third studio effort, L'Écho des Bois. In 2000, Faubert signed with the label La Tribu and released a set of a cappella ballads (La Récompense, 2000) and a CD of songs and tales (L'Âme Qui Sortait par la Bouche du Conteur, 2001). ~ François Couture