Despite Tuesday’s predicted blizzard, the MCA was alive with sounds of southwest Louisiana Cajun Music by BeauSoleil. BeauSoleil is widely acclaimed as the best Cajun band in the world and integrates sounds as varied as the spices that enliven Creole food from the same area. Among the long list of influential sounds are: bayou, Caribbean, jazz, blues, surf music, Tex-Mex, swamp pop, country, Zydeco (an African based culture with rhythms distinct from Cajun) and more.
This concert marks a stop in the group’s 25th anniversary tour to promote their most recent album, “Looking Back Tomorrow: BeauSoleil Live.” Interspersed with new songs, the band threw in older tunes from their over 20 years and 21 recording projects. These many ventures have earned them seven Grammy nominations and one Grammy award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1997 for “L’Amour Ou La Folly.” For their anniversary, BeauSoleil is traveling with friends. The MCA was host to guests Darol Anger on fiddle and mandolin, Cindy Cashdollar on Dobro and steel guitar, Sonny Landreth on slide guitar and Carl Landry on reed instruments.
BeauSoleil’s front man Michael Doucet, songwriter, vocalist and fiddler, has Arcadian roots and grew up speaking the French he now sings. In fact, the band’s name comes from an area in Arcadia. The French-speaking Arcadians, who settled Nova Scotia in 1604, were forced out by the British in 1755 during Le Grand Derangement. Though many died during the struggle, many eventually settled in the Bayous of Louisiana where Cajun culture fell into place. “Throughout our history Cajun music has been evolving: all these ingredients have made it what it is. The past and the present are all linked,” said Doucet in a recent interview with the Rosebud Agency.
During his high school career in the late `60s, Doucet discovered his passion for the Acadian culture, and began to study its music. The group began playing as a way of life in 1986. Throughout this journey, he rejuvenated the music of older Cajun musicians, including Dennis McGee, an Acadian fiddler born in the late 1800s. Toward the end of McGee’s life, BeauSoleil learned some of his songs, songs they still play today.
Tuesday the band played McGee’s “Choupique,” about a “big, ugly” Louisiana fish served on a piece of Cypress wood. Doucet attributes much of the BeauSoleil’s evolution of Cajun music to the inspiration and teachings of these classic Cajun musicians. “If I was going to play Cajun music, I wanted to play it right. And if I was going to change Cajun music, I had to be sure of its directions,” he said in an interview earlier in his career.
“Cajun music is wrapped up in emotion,” Doucet said. It is also enveloped in history, culture, nostalgia and poignancy, as is apparent in songs such as “Recherche D’Arcadie” (In search of Arcadie). Emotion is only one aspect of BeauSoleil’s distinct attitude and feel that come through in their music, however. One also gains a sense of travelling with the band to warm bayou-land and dancing in the sun. Doucet predicted this response with a disclaimer at the start of the performance. “I understand they will be changing, the seats here next year, so its okay if you want to get up and dance on them.”
Tuesday’s show was also a bit of a French lesson, while Doucet opened each song with a piece of history or an anecdote and a short translation of the song’s title or lyrics. For a warm night of spicy music and fun, Merci Beaucoup, BeauSoleil!