The band was cooking. Bien salé. Here are the photos.
Those of you who are reading this in Eastern Iowa: Go to the Cajun Fest in the Amanas this weekend, and be sure to go early enough to see Marce Lacouture at noon.
There was a time when I resisted the Cajun Fest. It wasn’t the strange juxtaposition of Cajun and Amana. My resistance was a response to the tackiness of the whole thing, with garish plywood alligators and Mardi Gras everywhere, though we are solidly in Easter season, thank you very much. And it was the way they treated musicians—overworking them a bit while making them stand in line to buy their own (bad “Cajun”) food. Not very hospitable.
But after a few years I came to know people at the Fest. Some were Iowans who were seriously grooving on the music, like Richard and Diane Luther. This Cedar Rapids couple has learned to dance Cajun in the past few years and is generous souls who have taught hundreds of other Iowans how to waltz, two-step, and jitterbug. Others were Louisiana ex-pats, like Preston and his impressive entourage. They circle their RVs in the campground, taking turns cooking meals that dazzle. Crawfish pies, gumbos with potato salad. And they rope you in to eat over there with generosity characteristic of Louisiana. I don’t know which I like better, the food or the chance to speak Cajun French.
In recent years, I have known some of the musicians slightly or more than slightly; it would not be thinkable to skip out on their Iowa gig, plywood alligators or not.
This weekend’s music lineup is just great. Rosie LeDet has a great voice and accordion style—it’s hard to believe that she is shy if you see her on stage. Jamie Bergeron I don’t know well, but I hear that his music makes the party. Roddie Romero is a great guitar electric player but also a fiddler and a dynamite accordeon player. He does everything from the most traditional of Cajun tunes to no-apologies, no-prisoners rock and roll. Jodi Hebert is teaching dance: just seeing her dance is a real treat.
Hadley J. Castille is a consummate professional who loves to meet people around the world; his band is great, too. You’ll hear a little swing, a little blues in his fiddling, which has its roots in the pre-WWII, Texas-swing influenced string-band era. Mr. Hadley is a great fiddler and songwriter, too. Dennis Stroughmatt is the most amazing guy. He’s a Midwesterner who has learned French, the fiddle, and the accordion. He long ago earned the label “Louisiana musician.” Marce Lacouture has collected the Cajun music that never went to the dance-hall: danses rondes, children’s songs, lullabies, women’s songs, home music. Her voice makes me think of diamonds: strong, clear, timeless.
Naturally, I’m crushed that I can’t be there; it’s that darn sabbatical again. But do go, listen, meet the musicians, get raucous, dance, be sure to clap on 2 and 4, and have a great time. And let me know how it was.
Who knows what will happen next at the Blue Moon Saloon?
I'll explain about the Blue Moon. There are not many bars I'll go into by myself because I am just not comfortable hanging. Not the Blue Moon! It's a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Occasionally I get chatted up by a clueless guy, but never harassed. I get respect. Is it because the Blue Moon Saloon is outside? Or connected to a hostel?
And the music is just great there. Bands who play out of state for $15 and $30 play the Moon for $5. Can you name just six Cajun bands? If so, take one musician from each of five of those bands and that's the super group Racines, who play pretty much exclusively at the Blue Moon.
So today, the fabulous Sam Broussard (order his CD Geeks before it's gone) had finished playing and the Cajun jam had not yet started. Strains of "Hello Mary Lou" came from down by the bar. Folks drifted over to see an excellent barbershop quartet. They did one song; I still don't really know why.
I love that place.
The most fabulous Archive of Cajun and Creole Culture at the Center for Louisiana Studies was the object of a benefit this weekend. Four bands, all of whom have taken some of their repertoire from the Archive, gave generously of their time and talent. The crowd was just delightful and completely delighted.
I am going to be on the radio tonight. “Francomix” is hosted by the fabulous Olivier Marteau, from the south of France. He’s studying here in Lafayette and continuing his radio show on KRVS, our unique public radio station.
Olivier invites a guest each week to come chat and to choose seven songs in French from around the world. I particularly enjoyed the job of assembling seven songs. Unfortunately, a technical glitch of my own doing prevented me from sharing those seven. But no matter! Olivier had his music library with him and it was a simple matter to choose seven more, almost as good, along with a couple of surprises. Who knew that “Travailler c’est trop dur” has an African version, by Alpha Blondy?!
The show is on at midnight tonight (Sunday). Listen tonight at KRVS. If you are not already a member, please consider a contribution to the station. They provide an irreplaceable service to Acadiana, to Cajun music, and to the greater webcast-listening world.
Photo courtesy of Jiro Hatano.
See you on the radio!
At last night's jam I spoke more French than English, and I actually got to sing. Dave Trainer is the best! The fiddles were fabulous and people danced, as they do every week. Looking out beyond the musicians to see a couple waltzing to your music can be better than applause.
Danielle kindly and ably took the second photo. For more of our photos of the jam, check out the photo album.
Sonny Landreth, y'all. This man is a world treasure. He's a slide guitarist, a bluesman whose music is simply phenomenal. Maybe it’s accurate to say that he’s nationally unknown; when I talk to people outside Acadiana, where Sonny resides, I am often surprised to find people who should know his work but don’t. He is a singer-songwriter whose songs cut deep into the soul of south Louisiana.
The KRVS webcast will feature music from the several stages, so the schedule is just a guide.
The webcast starts at 6pm (midnight GMT) today and Friday; it begins at noon (18:00 GMT) on Saturday and Sunday.
I particularly recommend Baba Maal, Les Charbonniers de l'enfer, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Dr. John, Urban Trad, and Beòlach. And Veillée, their last performance together. And Red Stick Ramblers, their last performance with Joel Savoy. And I've left so many out. Don't miss it, y'all.
Tomorrow I'm traveling the length of the Mississippi River in my car, La Belle, while a world-class musician takes care of the house and cat.
I exagerate slightly.
I'm not going the entire length, just up to Iowa.
Anyway, my companion on this trip is music. I've got some great songs: "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman and Marcia Ball. Emmylou Harris & Levon singing "Wish We Were Back In Missouri." "Memphis" by Cry Cry Cry. "Southern Man" by the Indigo Girls. Everything by Lucinda.
Got any suggestions for future trips? Good themes: cotton, delta, Jackson, St. Louis, Memphis.... What songs would you play for this trip?
This past weekend I was at the Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week-End, which took place at Lake Fausse State Park. It was one of those experiences where a single day feels like an entire week, and I mean that in a very good way.
It was hard to pick just ten things I liked. Okay, so I couldn't restrain myself.
10. Lots of smart guitar tips from David Doucet
9. Dining music: Beausoleil trio—how cool is that?
8. Meeting great people, including two whom I really needed to meet
7. Crab and corn soup
6. Mello Joy coffee available at every hour
5a. Dining music: Mitch Reed’s fiddle
5b. Mitch Reed in a zydeco tie, perhaps not all that willingly
4. Really nice accordion players
3a. D'Jalma Garnier's inspiring workshop on the Canray repertoire
3b. Christine Balfa's (a last-minute sub!) splendid workshop on vocals
3c. Marce Lacouture’s fantastic workshop on home music
2. Discovering Cedric Watson
1. Jamming seven hours straight