Parhelion Records – 2016
13 Tracks; 61 minutes
If there is a happier style of music than Cajun and its offspring, Zydeco, I can’t imagine what it would be. The Cajun musical tradition goes back hundreds of years to the French settlers of what today is Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. They called the area Acadia, and themselves Acadians.
In 1755, these peaceful settlers got caught in the middle of the ceaseless wars between Britain and France. Britain had juat won one and was preparing for the upcoming French & Indian war. The British were concerned about the loyalty of the Acadians and decided the best thing they could do was to simply deport them.
So, the Acadians were sent off to the French colony of Louisiana where, over time, “Acadian” became “Cadian” and then “Cajun”. They brought their fiddles and accordions and their folk music with them. As has always been true in America, this new music was absorbed and blended into new unique styles. One of the most famous, Zydeco – a blend of Acadian and Creole influences – comes from the Cajuns’ pronunciation of “beans”. In French, beans are “les haricots” which, with the rolled “r”, sounds like “layz addico” which got squeezed into “zydeco”.
This album captures the energy of Cajun and Creole, blues and swamp, bayou and New Orleans. It is an infectious collection of the traditional and the contemporary played by an outstanding band with every member an absolute master at their instruments.
The album starts out with a rollicking traditional Cajun tune, “Marie Catlin” sung in French by Michael Doucet with a very engaging Louisiana accent. Doucet and Rigney harmonize their fiddles beautifully and lift the track above the expected.
This is quickly followed up with a sweet jazzy blues number “L’Amour Poisonné” (Poisoned Love). Fiddles play a very moody double lead backed up with perfect accompaniment by John R. Burr on Hammond organ. This track really grooves.
One of the most interesting cuts is “Cajun Fandango”. This song starts out with a distinctive Gypsy feel in minor chords then morphs into a major chord Cajun romp, and then back again. If that sounds choppy, it isn’t. In the very capable hands of Doucet and Rigney, the blended sound works extremely well.
The duo also takes songs from the blues/rock canon and overlay their own feel. Both “Early In The Morning” and J.J. Cale’s “They Call Me The Breeze” get Cajun makeovers that work surprisingly well. Of particular note is Caroline Dahl’s Sippiana piano work on “Early In The Morning”.
But perhaps, the stand out track for combining traditional and Cajun fiddle is their fantastic version of Rigo’s Blues with soaring fiddles and perfect support from Burr’s Hammond.
This CD is an eclectic blend of influences while still maintaining a distinctive overall Cajun feel. The tracks work collectively as an album and as individual songs. So load this little gem on your CD player or digital device, practice your Cajun accent, put your shoes for le danser and have an absolute blast.
As they say in Louisiana, as well as among the Acadians whose ancestors escaped the British and found their way home to Atlantic Canada, “Laissez les bons temps a rouler” – indeed, let the good times roll.