From Bamako to Carencro - BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet

Compass Records

I know I’m going to get called out on this by some far more qualified to comment on Cajun music than I am, but it seems that Cajun releases have become more ethnomusicological exercises in precision aimed at inclusion in the Smithsonian than they are about laissez les bon temps rouler. When did the ‘aaaiiiiieee!’ become ho hum? Fortunately, one of the pillars of contemporary Cajun, BeauSoleil has decided to lighten up as their name (Beautiful Sun) implies. With their new album From Bamako to Carencro the veterans seem to have got their mojo back. Undoubtedly, this rediscovered vitality comes from caring less about cultural purity and more about introducing cultural variety to the mix. Vocalist/fiddler, Michael Doucet, one of the two brothers at the core of BeauSoleil since the 1970s admits letting some fresh influences into the Cajun proper make this disc sparkle like none other in their catalogue, “"The diversity is really what excites me about this record - it's nothing like we've done before and the songs are played only as we could play them." Featured on the new album is a reimagining of James Brown's 1962 Live at the Apollo version of "I'll Go Crazy" as well as a swing version of John Coltrane's "Bessie's Blues". But, the star of the set is in tribute to a people far from Lafayette. “Bamako” was written by jazz trombonist, Roswell Rudd with whom BeauSoleil have shared stages with in the past. It’s a musical light for the war-stricken people of Mali, who despite the violence that has erupted around them, continue to inspire the rest of the world with their own amazing musical contributions. The track is followed by “Carencro”, completing the album title and telling a dark tale from the rural past of this suburban centre in today’s Lafayette Parish. But, overall the mood is bright, cheerful and fun-loving, everything we had always expected from Cajun music before it became bogged down by technical expertise. I especially love the opener, “Two-Step De Port Arthur”, a waltz turned into a two-step which the band used on the road for sound checks for the past ten years; the proverbial jewel in the rough.

Watch BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet on PBS. See more from On Canvas.