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For the past forty-two years, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet have been making some of the most potent and popular Cajun music on the planet. Born out of the rich Acadian ancestry of its members, and created and driven by bandleader Michael Doucet’s spellbinding fiddle playing and soulful vocals, BeauSoleil is notorious for bringing even the most staid audience to its feet. BeauSoleil’s distinctive sound derives from the distilled spirits of New Orleans jazz, blues-rock, folk, swamp pop, zydeco, country, and bluegrass, captivating listeners from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to New York’s Carnegie Hall, then all the way across the pond to Richard Thompson’s Meltdown Festival in England.
For their first studio release in four years, and the twentieth in their career, BeauSoleil teamed up with Nashville-based roots-music label Compass Records. The band named the new album From Bamako to Carencro, a title that alludes to the cultural and migratory connection between Bamako, in Mali, West Africa, and Louisiana (symbolized in name by the Lafayette, Louisiana, suburb of Carencro), a link that draws a sonic bloodline back to BeauSoleil’s roots. On the album’s eleven tracks, the band performs with a resounding authenticity all the while bringing a refreshed playfulness to the genre—the fiddle, flat-picked guitar, and accordion carry driving melodies over the two-step and waltz dance beats characteristic of their Cajun and zydeco music, but not without the country, jazz, and blues leanings that informed the genre in the 1920s. They channel the godfathers of other music as well by including a Cajun/La La–style reimagining of James Brown’s classic 1962 Live at the Apollo version of “I’ll Go Crazy” and a swing version of John Coltrane’s tune-de-force “Bessie’s Blues.” Guitarist David Doucet even tucks an occasional Lester Flatt–style bluegrass G-run into his highly melodic guitar solos.
Since becoming the first Cajun band in 1998 to win a Grammy Award with L’amour ou la folie (Traditional Folk Album) and then a second Grammy in 2010, Live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, BeauSoleil has garnered many accolades, including twelve Grammy nominations, the latest being its 2009 release, Alligator Purse. They are regular guests on National Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, where they were dubbed “the best Cajun band in the world,” and their music is so integral to the Cajun culture that they have been featured on the New Orleans–based hit HBO drama series, Treme.
The remarkable thing about Cajun revivalists BeauSoleil is that . . . they are still inviting us to ask what’s new. BeauSoleil isn’t neo-anything. This ensemble finds freshness not by infusing vintage styles with contemporary sonics but with vibrant, thoughtful fusions.
Cajun music purists admire the fiddler Michael Doucet’s informed command of traditional Cajun music, while those who just want to party surrender to Beausoleil and boogie to classic Cajun two-steps, reels and a host of other rhythmic influences that have made this Grammy-winning Crescent City outfit one of the most colorful roots bands on the scene. Bon temps, every time they play.
—New York Times
The Best Cajun Band in the World!
—A Prairie Home Companion