Special session — Joel Savoy talks new release with Kelli Jones, ‘Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour’

Joel Savoy and Kelli Jones have played music onstage and on records together for more than a decade. Until last summer, however, the duo had never made time to record their own project.

The resulting 45 rpm, limited edition vinyl, “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour,” started shipping last month through Savoy’s Valcour Records. You can hear it and purchase a copy here. A cover of British singer Petula Clark’s “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour” is on side A. “The Attakapas Trail/Reel de Nez Picqués,” an homage to Cajun fiddlers Michael Doucet and Al Berard, is on side B. Two more cuts — “McGee Reels” and “Dedans La Louisiane” — are featured as digital downloads.

Any good record has a good backstory, and this new seven-inch is no different. Before Savoy and Jones even started recording, they fell upon the Clark song while on vacation, wining and dining in the Bussaco Palace of Luso, Portugal, with family friend/musician Ed Littlefield Jr. in October 2015. 

“One night, we were exploring the castle we were staying in, and we stumbled across some old 45s in a trash bin in one of the ‘off-limits’ areas of the castle,” Savoy says. “Kelli took a couple home and one by Petula Clark ended up on my vintage 1958 Seeburg jukebox in my kitchen. A lot of folks were drawn to that (45) — maybe because of the title or maybe because they had no idea what it was. We started hearing it all of the time, and we fell in love with it.”

Nearly two more years passed before Savoy and Jones got to record. After a week immersed in last summer’s Fiddle Tunes festival in Port Townsend, Washington, the duo took some time to unwind at Littlefield’s farm, located north of Seattle. While they were there, Savoy and Jones decided it was time to make something of their own.

“Kelli and I have worked on many recording projects together — from me producing and playing on her own material to playing together or singing on tracks for other people,” Savoy says. “When I’m home, I’m often booked up with other projects, so it’s just been hard to find a moment to sit down and do something for ourselves. Being up in Washington last summer at this amazing studio was the perfect opportunity. We pulled it together really quickly.”

Being that it was Littlefield’s studio, the duo thought it only right to perform the Clark b-side they had discovered and fell in love with. Seemingly overnight, Savoy and Jones worked up an arrangement for “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour.” With the help of studio engineer Jordan Cunningham, the duo recorded the track live, capturing the spontaneity and spirit of the session. It’s a sound Savoy prefers.

I like the intimacy of a live studio recording,” Savoy says.

“I like the intimacy of a live studio recording,” he says. “Sure, we did a few takes of each song, but we had never even played the Petula Clark song together before recording it. The spirit of two people sitting across from each other making music in a beautiful room … that’s what we were going for.”

Clark’s version is rare, and outside of the seven-inch Jones found in Portugal, Savoy says he has only found an old recording of it on the video website Dailymotion. Jones and Savoy’s version is different, but he says they “captured the essence, the mood, of Clark’s original recording.”

“That’s why we were drawn to the song in the first place,” Savoy adds.

With the Valcour release, only 300 copies are available on vinyl. Other promotional plans for “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour” are currently up in the air, but that could change.

“We recently found out that Clark is alive and touring still, so I got in touch with her manager, and we’re sending her a copy,” Savoy says. “Who knows? I hope she likes it.”

For more information, including Savoy’s entire story on the recording session, and to listen to “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour,” visit valcourrecords.com.