Cajun music in
southwestern Louisiana traces its lineage back centuries to the
migrations of French-speaking people from modern day Nova Scotia
in the mid-18th century. That living history and the Cajun
culture’s unique identity gives the music a special flavor, with
ancient elements that frame modern sounds in a deeply moving but
freshly interpreted way.
Nowhere is this more
true than on this recording led by Cajun veteran accordionist
and vocalist Kermit Venable, performed by some of the area’s top
Cajun musicians, and produced by Jonno Frishberg, a classically
trained violinist who has become a died-in-the-wool devoté of
authentic Cajun sounds.
The band takes its
name – Beau Bassin literally meaning “beautiful basin” -- from
the fertile plains located just north of the Cajun capital of
Lafayette in southwest Louisiana, thought to be the original
river bottom of the meandering Mississippi River.
Sung mostly in the
French dialect unique to Cajun Louisiana, the performances here
speak entirely of origins, relying primarily on rural dance
tunes, acoustic instruments, and a gently swaying rhythm
accentuated by the “’tit fer,” the hand-held triangle that
christens all Cajun music with its clear and ringing notes.
The repertoire ranges
far and wide, including traditional numbers (like the well-known
“Jolie Blonde”) as well as modern-day compositions based on
Cajun motifs. Similarly, the arrangements stick mostly to the
classic styles and instrumentation, but occasionally add the
modern touch of an electric or pedal-steel guitar.
The overall effect is
mesmerizing, transporting the listener back to the music’s
gentler, more-rural origins while rendering it very much alive
in the here-and-now.