Purity first: nothing can compare with the melting beauty of the three-part male-voice polyphony still to be heard in Corsican churches. It is governed by strict rules: the middle voice - the "siconda" - carries the tone, while the "bassu" holds the bass and the high "terza" weaves delicate ornamentation above. There are a number of such groups to be heard on CD, but the most outstanding one is A Filetta's Passione (OVI 45208-2). The worldly end of the spectrum is occupied by the musical style known as "bal-musette". Cap worn at a rakish angle, Gitane hanging from the lip - the images evoked by the cafe-music of Paris may be hackneyed, but its origins are fascinating. It was brought to the capital around 1900 by migrant workers from the mountainous and impoverished Auvergne region; its melting-pot was the cafe-charbon - a small bar where people bought food and coal. Workmen would get out their "cabrette" - a droneless bagpipe made of goatskin - and everyone would dance. Other musical ingredients arrived with the Gypsies and with the Italian migrant workers who brought their "organetto" accordions: thus was the "bal-musette" born.
You can get a wonderfully panoptic view of this art-form from The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music (RGNET 1084), which starts with its founding fathers Emile Vacher and Charles Peguri. You also get Jean Corti, who played in a military brothel in the 1940s, plus the drug-addicted Frehel, whose smoky tones are an authentic sound of the 1920s. Django Reinhardt's son Babik beats up a lovely storm with the New Quintette du Hot Club de France, and Edith Piaf - this music's patron saint - growls her way through a song called "Accordeoniste".