• author
    • Kate Laddish

    • March 12, 2013 in Columnists

    BeauSoleil brings irresistible Cajun music, new CD to West Coast

    Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet (photo by Rick Olivier)

    Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet (photo by Rick Olivier)


    BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet is (left to right) Tommy Alesi, Billy Ware, Mitch Reed, Bill Bennett, Michael Doucet, David Doucet (photo by Rick Olivier)

    BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet is (left to right) Tommy Alesi, Billy Ware, Mitch Reed, Bill Bennett, Michael Doucet, David Doucet (photo by Rick Olivier)

    BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, the world’s most famous and beloved Cajun band, will bring their irresistibly danceable music to West Coast clubs for a series of CD release parties for From Bamako to Carencro, their first studio release since 2009’s Grammy-nominated Alligator Purse.

    Heralded by luminaries ranging from Bob Dylan (“That’s my kind of music!”) to Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor (“BeauSoleil is the greatest Cajun band in the world!”) to New Orleans musical icon Allen Toussaint (“BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, they play music that’s honest to the bone!”), BeauSoleil has been preserving, advancing, and sharing Cajun music from their native Louisiana for more than thirty-five years.

    BeauSoleil (pronounced “Boh-so-LAY”) has been the foremost ambassador for Cajun music and culture since forming in 1975, bringing it to audiences far beyond Louisiana’s Acadians (or Cajuns). The band has always maintained a dynamic balancing act of keeping the traditional flame alive while also incorporating a range of other musical traditions through their passionate and inventive experimentation. BeauSoleil’s mix of old and new is showcased on their twenty-five albums and in their energetic performances; their efforts have been rewarded with twelve Grammy nominations and multiple Grammy wins as well as a devoted global following.

    It all started in the late 1960s and early 1970s when fiddling frontman Michael Doucet realized that the Cajun culture was dying out as members of the elder generation passed away. Doucet embarked on a passionate mission to learn, preserve, and share the Cajun music, language, and culture. Doucet and BeauSoleil are credited with spearheading a remarkable cultural renaissance and elevating Cajun music to one of domestic and international acclaim—a particularly remarkable feat considering that not long ago Cajun children were prohibited from speaking Cajun French at school in an attempt to squelch the Acadian culture.

    Far from strict adherence to traditional paths, BeauSoleil’s music both preserves the rich Cajun musical traditions of Louisiana while adding elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country, and blues for a savory musical stew, bringing an added level vitality to their music and making the Cajun traditions in which they are rooted very much alive rather than presented as well-preserved museum pieces.

    At their up-coming shows, BeauSoleil will be celebrating their just-released latest album From Bamako to Carencro (Compass Records). From Bamako to Carencro, which highlights the cultural and migratory connections between West Africa (Bamako, Mali) and Louisiana (represented in the title by Lafayette, Louisiana’s suburb Carencro), is a case in point of how well BeauSoleil braids together multiple traditions into an unexpected yet deeply satisfying whole.

    BeauSoleil consistently delivers joyful, soulful, heartfelt music. Theirs is music that thrums with life, and the best way to experience that heady vortex is at one of their shows—especially on the dance floor. Lead by Michael Doucet (violin, lead vocals, accordion, guitar, mandolin), BeauSoleil whirls audiences into their kaleidoscope of rhythms, tempos, and sonic textures. David Doucet contributes a richness with his rhythm and lead guitar and harmony vocals (and occasional forays into ukulele), Tommy Alesi (drums) and Billy Ware (percussion) lay down the rhythmic foundation, Mitch Reed adds the bass line—until things rich a fever pitch and Reed hands the bass over to soundman Bill Bennett, picks up his own fiddle, and then the energy in the room all but crackles as Doucet and Reed launch into a spirited series of twin-fiddle instrumentals.

    Don’t know how to waltz or two-step? Not a problem; there’s no one right way to dance to music this compelling. Do not let fear of dancing “incorrectly” stop you from getting the most out of these shows; BeauSoleil and their music are much more about savoring life than about being bound to narrow traditions.

    BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet will be at The Palms Playhouse (13 Main Street in Winters, California) on Thursday, March 14 at 8 PM for a concert and CD release celebration; tickets are $25 and are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music’s Woodland branch, and at the door if not sold out.

    For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com or rosebudus.com/beausoleil.

    Upcoming performances include:
    ~ Tuesday March 12—Ashkenaz, Berkeley, CA
    ~ Thursday March 14—The Palms Playhouse, Winters, CA
    ~ Friday March 15—Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, Sebastopol, CA
    ~ Sunday March 17—Tower Theater, Bend, OR
    ~ Tuesday March 19—Melody Ballroom, Portland, OR
    ~ Wednesday March 20—Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA
    ~ Friday March 22—Hering Auditorium, Fairbanks, AK

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