Monday, June 27, 2011

Lively Cajun Country Revival Is Right Musical Combination

It was blues researchers with eclectic tastes such as the late Mike Leadbitter, one of the forces behind Blues Unlimited, and Arhoolie Records’ Chris Strachwitz, that helped generate my enthusiasm for zydeco and cajun music while in college. Clifton Chenier’s music provided a bridge that led to an Arhoolie album by Lawrence Walker, and then the Hackberry Ramblers, and then mail order purchase of Cleveland Crochet, Joseph Falcon, The Balfa Brothers, Nathan Abshire, Joel Sonnier and Belton Richard. I could not understand the lyrics but the crying fiddle, the propulsive accordion, the heartfelt cries and yells and the lovely waltzes and driving two-steps enthralled me.

And then younger musicians like Michael Doucet and Beausoleil and Steve Riley helped keep the tradition alive while reinvigorating it as they revived obscure older tunes and wrote contemporary songs. More recently younger bands like The Pine Leaf Boys have also emerged. One of the members of this band is a young accordionist, Wilson Savoy, son of Marc Savoy, noted accordionist and accordion maker, and Ann Savoy, noted vocalist. His brother, Joel Savoy has emerged as a traditionally rooted fiddler who has partnered with accordionist Jesse Lége.

While in the Pacific Northwest. Jesse and Joel met up with he Portland, Oregon Caleb Klauder Country Band and they hit things so well that they came back to Eunice, Louisiana to record a terrific new recording as Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy and the Cajun Country Revival, The Right Combination, on Valcour Records. Valcour Records is a label that Joel Savoy started to promote music rooted in Louisiana traditions. In addition to Lége and Savoy, the musicians include Caleb Klauder, vocalist and guitarist; with Sammy Lind on guitar, fiddle and vocals; Nadine Landry on bass and vocals; Paul Brainard electric and steel guitar; and Ned Folkerth on drums. Savoy notes that many of the songs had not even had full run throughs before being recorded. “I hope that you put this record on and just smile. That’s all I want, just smile and be happy and know that this record was made the same way. We had so much fun making it and we’re proud to share it with you.”

The performances sure got my toes tapping and brought out a big smile from me. The instrumentation is a bit fuller than some of those accordion and fiddle bands I listened to on record 40 years ago. The exuberance and terrific music is the same. There are renditions of classic cajun recordings such as Adam Hebert’s Ouvre La Porte (Open the Door), a lively two-step which Lége’s sings with gusto, the lovely rendition of the classic Evangeline Waltz, and the closing blues, Corina, based on a Lawrence Walker recording Alberta (and it should be noted that Leadbelly also performed it as Alberta). In addition to these cajun delights, there is Wondering, with its mix of cajun waltz and Texas honky tonk sung by both Lége and Klauder; Tippy Toe, a lively cajun accented treatment of a Loretta Lynn recording, that Nadine Landry delivers a delightful vocal on; and the Porter Wagoner composed title tune, wonderfully sung by Klauder and Landry and wonderfully played.

The CD contains full liner notes in the form of an enhanced pdf file that contains song notes as well as song lyrics (including English translations), a video of Jesse and Joel with the Caleb Klauder Country Band in a Northwest studio performing Ouvre La Porte, excerpts from some of the original recordings interpreted here and more. Joel Savoy doesn’t like being called traditionalists in that they play in the moment, but still they display the joy of a living tradition. Their personality to the fore with their friends for a recording that will be a joy for all lovers of Louisiana music.

I caught part of The Cajun Country Revival’s Set set at JazzFest this year and it was as terrific and as much fun as the recording. Makes me wish i knew how to dance. You can check out for information on this which is also available at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans,, and better music vendors.

No comments: