Reviews of Backroad Carnival

Opening with Picayune Baliverne – a short instrumental, theatrical overture in five / four time, the album opens up to a dazzling panorama of American, European and African roots music styles, from the wailing harmonica of Sell You My Soul, through the rolling banjo on Hawk On A Haystack to the Congolese guitar of Tattered Flag and the finger-picked guitar and calabash of Zanzibar (Ebb & Flow).
Impossible to pigeonhole, Seznec’s music incorporates blues, gospel, bluegrass and swampy southern rock (Pigeon Man recalls Tony Joe White), yet is always coherent and distinctive.
Much more than a casual appropriator of cultural tropes, Seznec is an artist whose work locates the commonality in diverse musical cultures and whose guitar playing connects the past and present. Anyone on an errant’s quest to find the rightful heir to the Ry Cooder slide-guitar globetrotter mantle should start here. –Steve Hunt, fRoots, November 2017. Read the full review here.

Le “Pied” (5 étoiles !)
Attention, découverte ! Avec la sono mondiale, jamais les musiques n’ont autant circulé, produisant de multiples métissages. En voici un exemple particulière ment réussi dû à un compositeur multi-instrumentiste franco-américain qui revendique vieux blues, folk contemporain, rock, funk de Nola, rumba congolaise, swing d’Abyssinie “balancés dans mon gumbo pour voir quelles nouvelles saveurs émergent.” Instrumentiste virtuose, Cory Seznec est un parolier incisif et subtil dont chacune des scénettes musicales semble couler de source de manière organique, que ce soit avec Sell You My Soul, hit quasi instantané, ou sur Hawk on a Haystack dont le mélange banjo, calebasse, pedal steel évoque un steel band trinidadien ! Un détonnant cocktail pour l’un des disques les plus originaux et excitants qu’il nous ait été donné d’entendre depuis longtemps. -Jean-Pierre Bruneau, Soulbag, Juillet/Aout 2017. Read the 5 star review en français here.

English translation:
Attention, discovery! Never has world music so widely disseminated music styles from so many origins to produce hybrid sounds as now. Here is a fine example, thanks to a Franco-American multi-instrumentalist who mixes old blues, contemporary folk, rock, Nola funk, Congolese rumba, Abyssinian swing “chucked in my own gumbo to see what new flavors emerge.” A virtuoso instrumentalist, Cory Seznec is an incisive and subtle lyricist. Every musical scene he creates seems to stem from organic sources, whether with the instant hit Sell You My Soul, or Hawk on Haystack, where banjo, calabash, and pedal steel evoke a Trinidadian steel band! An amazing cocktail and one of the most original and exciting albums we have heard in a long time. -Jean-Pierre Bruneau, 
Soulbag, Juillet/Aout 2017. Read the 5 star review in French here.

Seznec’s supporting cast (bass, drums, harmonica, and guitar) is excellent and he himself reinforces his reputation as one of the finest ‘world’ musicians out there on this superb set. -Jeremy Searle, RnR Magazine, July/August 2017. Read the 4 star review in English here.

Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating live albums of the year. –Dani Heyvaert, Rootstime (Belgium). Read the review in Dutch here.

Live Reviews

Live au Studio de l’Ermitage, le 7 juin 2017
Un public ravi et subjugué a fait un triomphe à ce mélange unique et très dépaysant de musiques américaines et africaines, roots comme contemporaines, servies par un groupe énergique et soudé, à la joie de jouer communicative et composé du propre frère de Cory, Yann Seznec aux claviers, de David Chalumeau à l’harmonica, de Renaud Ollivier aux percussions, de Daniel Mizrahi à la guitare électrique et de Thomas Garoche au chant. Le trio féminin old time et bluegrass Fierce Flowers qui assurait la première partie est revenu rejoindre le groupe en fin de concert avant trois rappels amplement mérités.” –Soulbag

Live au New Morning, le 20 avril 2017
C’est avec Cory Seznec, une belle découverte, que nous avons débuté la soirée. Ce dernier, guitariste et banjoïste est accompagné d’un excellent percussionniste, avec qui il déconstruit le blues de façon très personnelle à l’aide de guitares désaccordées et « trafiquées » selon ses propres termes, afin d’obtenir un son pour le moins étonnant. Les classiques du blues en ressortent transfigurés, entre expérimentations et incursions africaines. Charismatique et sympa, la paire nous livre un résultat intriguant mais séduisant. –My Head is a Jukebox

Ouvrait le bal, le guitariste franco-américain Cory Seznec, pilier de la scène bluegrass parisienne qui a aussi vécu en Afrique, en particulier en Ethiopie. Accompagné du percussionniste Renaud Ollivier, il a distillé un original mélange de picking, de funk et de sonorités africaines. La voix bien posée, ses compositions évoquent ses voyages, chantés avec passion. –Soulbag

C’est en duo que Cory Seznec s’est produit, accompagné de Renaud Ollivier aux percussions. Formation réduite donc mais la qualité était présente, Cory, musicien franco-américain mélange différentes influences, la référence au country blues des origines saute aux yeux (surtout lorsqu’il est au banjo), le folk est aussi présent mais des sonorités africaines se font entendre, résultat probable d’un séjour à Addis-Abéba et de nombreux voyages. Le résultat est très agréable, une sorte de reconstruction d’un blues américain des origines à l’aide de musique africaine et de sonorité issus de guitares subtilement désaccordées et trafiquées. Le mélange fait mouche surtout que la technique de jeu à la guitare est sans faille et que la partie percussion n’est pas en reste, ajoutez à cela une belle voix, une bonne dose de charisme et un zeste d’humour. Tous les ingrédients sont réunis pour faire un beau voyage et c’est effectivement un beau voyage que nous avons fait. –Jean Philippe Trotier, Arteos

Reviews of New Orleans Fingerstyle Video Lesson
Franco-American musician Cory Seznec plays blues, early jazz, gospel and African music. Seznec’s focus on complex rhythms and jazz chording should greatly interest intermediate and advanced fingerstyle guitarists. He presents the first tune, “Corrina, Corrina”, as a rumba, which will challenge guitarists who favor solid 4/4 time. Learning to sing over his bass line will give the student a foundation in playing polyrhythmically – likewise the treble lines in the guitar breaks. Snooks Eaglin’s “Lookin’ For A Woman” delves further into rumba, including a triplet accent borrowed from New Orleans snare drum technique – think of Albert King’s version of “Crosscut Saw”, played solo. He uses a rubato approach for “Give Me Dat Ol’ Time Religion”, based on a published piano arrangement by J. Rosamond Johnson. Seznec’s accompaniment to the vocal resembles a Gary Davis gospel arrangement, with melody played in unison with the voice, but the guitar breaks are much jazzier. Guitarists who absorb the ideas introduced here will have a good basis for creating their own bluesy, reflective arrangements. “Classified”, inspired by the playing of pianist James Booker, has a light-hearted, danceable feel. The final tune, “High Society”, comes from a 1961 recording by Snooks Eaglin, with Seznec adding some riffs from Blind Blake’s “Blake’s Breakdown” for good measure. This lesson follows Stefan Grossman’s established format: full performance of a tune, discussion and demonstration of distinct sections, then a split screen run-through of the segment at a slow tempo. The download and dvd comes with a 31-page booklet of transcriptions in standard notation and tablature. Seznec progresses logically from simple to more complex rhythmic concepts throughout the lesson, so I recommend following the segments sequentially. It will take guitarists some time to master the techniques shown here, but the payoffs are greater rhythmic and harmonic facility that’s applicable in many settings.
-Patrick Ragains, Minor 7th webzine, listen to the May/June 2017 podcast here.

Looking to hip-up your traditional repertoire? Meet cool cat Cory Seznec. He—along with other fresh faces like Dom Flemons, Erin Harpe and Alberto Lombardi—is infusing Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop faculty with young blood. And his New Orleans Fingerstyle Blues Guitar wastes no time pumping that oxygenated zing into your strings. Under Seznec’s plan, the venerable earworm “Corrina, Corrina” slyly dips and stumbles its way past the pitfall of becoming the millionth rehash. His is the hippest overhaul you’ll ever hear, stemming from the right-hand thumb locking down a rumba groove while the left hand engages in string rolls and bluesy flourishes—all without hindering the singalong chorus. “Lookin’ for a Woman” also has rumba on its mind and fingers, likewise elevating the right hand into as much a star as is the left. Figuring heavily into that attack is the design of hometown bluesman Snooks Eaglin, right down to his flair for New Orleans flamenco. “High Society,” the jazz standard upon which Eaglin built his reputation for blistered solos, remains just as imaginatively amphetamined. “Classified” converts the pianistics of James Booker, another local legend, into Blind Blake thumb drags and neck-long string strikes meant to flash like a keyboard glissando. And as for just how deeply rooted this lesson is: Seznec creatively springboards “Give Me Dat Ol’ Time Religion” from an arrangement no younger than 92 years old. –Dennis Rozanski, Blues Rag, Baltimore Blues Society.

Reviews of Cory Seznec – Beauty In The Dirt:

Rough diamonds of African-tinged country blues… The title track has Afrobeat-style high guitar riffs, with earthy ngoni interjections played by Seznec (whose banjo picking is equally pert), which somehow seamlessly weave with the southern blues of the song’s main melody. The instrumentals that provide the album’s framework are a laid back mélange of Malian-style blues and rustling percussion. It’s a subtle and fresh type of fusion and one that is further boosted by Seznec’s voice, a dextrous, resonant drawl that brings out the colour of his songs. The New Orleans flavour of the purely country and blues tracks, such as the speed-pop of ‘East Virginia’ or the raunchy, electric ‘Build Me A Weapon’, hold as much appeal as Seznec’s more experimental concoctions. This is more than the sum of its parts.
Tim Woodall, Songlines, October 2014. Read the 4 star review here.

Mélangez blues, country et musiques africaines et vous obtenez la jolie musique de CORY SEZNEC dont il propose quinze titres sur son CD, issus de plusieurs années de travail avec un ensemble de musiciens qui apportent une diversité rafraîchissante dans un monde blues souvent convenu. La voix de Cory en impose, point d’attention au milieu de l’entrelacs des instruments.
Soul Bag Magazine, Oct-Nov-Dec 2014. Read the 4 star review here.

The musical results are joyous – a loose, jazz, old-time, bluegrass, it, African melange that seems to come from a deep well of the collective unconsciousness, so it feels instantly familiar even on the first listen. It demands repeated listening, not least to take in what’s happening for there are little flourishes and grace notes everywhere. But at its core this is fun, toe-tapping music, equally at home on a summer’s afternoon or blowing the winter blues away.
Jeremy Searle, R2 Magazine, July/August 2014.

Music that sits somewhere just outside the bluegrass-blues-folk-country-world music time-stream, dipping its toe in all of them, sometimes in the same song, creating whirls and eddies of gloriously natural and earthy traditional music…Beauty In The Dirt is the bastard offspring of a creole-swamp style that Alan Lomax would have loved and which would have graced Robert Crumb’s cartoon archive of American musical origins…You could be excused for not knowing where you are by the time the record finishes, but this is so good and the joins between styles so seamless that it’s best to remember that it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. Excellent.
Paul Woodgate,, May 20, 2014. Read the full review here.

These are new songs drawn from deep wells, incorporating styles, themes (and occasional floating lyrics) from familiar American folk song sources and casting them into something fresh and distinctive as, for example, in the beautiful combination of banjo and calabash on East Virginia or the Appalachian ngoni deployed on Crab On The Line. Gospel, jazz, blues, early country and (not least) a terrific melodic pop sensibility are all evident at various points on this album’s path, while the recurring short Malian and Congolese-influenced acoustic guitar instrumentals Southern Bound (I-IV) provide welcome signposts and rests for the intrepid sonic traveller.
Happily, all this cross-continental cross-referencing is executed without ever sounding like a square peg being bashed into a round hole. This isn’t some worthy-but-dull project album, but rather the work of a virtuoso musician and gifted songsmith doing what comes naturally. While Ry Cooder comparisons are the most apposite, there’s also something in the joyous lightness of touch here that evokes American Beauty-era Grateful Dead at their most beatific, while anyone who bought Martin Simpson’s Vagrant Stanzas will find much to appreciate here too.
Steve Hunt, fRoots , June/July 2014. Read the full review here.


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