Tag Archives: Zydeco

The Revelers: Get Ready

Revelers_GetReadySouthern Louisiana soul

Formed from members of the Red Stick Ramblers and Pine Leaf Boys, the Revelers cover a lot of Southern musical ground. Their last release, a four-song salute to swamp pop, showed off just one of their many influences. Their latest features all original material that combines zydeco, cajun, southern soul, pop, country, jazz and blues into a wonderfully potent mash. The Revelers mingle their roots into joyful dance music that’s hard to pin down; one can point to a particular accordion, fiddle, throaty saxophone, waltz-time rhythm or Cajun French lyric, but no single element fully defines the Revelers. Think of NRBQ with a stronger Southern pull.

The album’s songs cover the entire lifecycle of love. They caution listeners to “Play it Straight,” but apologetically admit they’ve cheated (“Just When I Thought I Was Dreaming”). They feel unappreciated (“Being Your Clown”), dump ill-fitting mates (“Please Baby Please”), put their troubles behind them (“Outta Sight”), lament their decisions (“Single Jeans”), and find themselves on the receiving end of a scorned lover’s revenge (“You No Longer Want to See Me”). But no matter the subject, there’s a danceable beat, culminating in the album’s closing  “Ayou On Va Danser?” This is a band to see and dance to live, but until you can, a few turns around the living room will have to do. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

The Revelers’ Home Page

The Revelers: Swamp Pop Classics, Volume 1

Revelers_SwampPopClassicsVolume1Hot covers of four swamp-pop favorites

Founding members from two of Louisiana’s freshest bands of the past decade – the Red Stick Ramblers and the Pine Leaf Boys – have joined together to produce this four-song salute to swamp pop. Swamp pop is a label given to the late-50s amalgam of southern R&B, soul, doo-wop, country, Cajun and zydeco influences heard in chart hits like Jimmy Clanton’s “Just a Dream,” Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” Grace and Dale’s “I’m Leaving It Up To You,’ and most famous of all (due to Bill Haley’s rock ‘n’ roll cover), Bobby Charles’ classic “Later Alligator.”

The EP opens with a Cajun-influenced arrangement of “Let the Good Times Roll,” that combines accordion, horns and second-line drumming with electric guitar and bass that lean to Chicago R&B. Bobby Charles’ “Grow Too Old” brings the R&B focus back to New Orleans, and Jerry LaCroix’s “Lonely Room” echoes the ’50s vocal thread that runs through many swamp pop originals. The closing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is a horns-and-organ soul instrumental [1 2] juiced with a hot tempo, Blake Miller’s accordion, and a sizzling sax solo from the band’s newest addition, Chris Miller.

This is available on vinyl from the band’s website, or as a digital download from retail; either way, it’s sure to heat up your dance party. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Revelers’ Home Page

Paul Simon: Graceland – 25th Anniversary Edition

Spectacular box set reissue of a landmark album

Graceland wasn’t Paul Simon’s first brush with pan-cultural music, nor was it even his first commercial success with such. But unlike the Jamaican, Peruvian and Latin influences of earlier hits, the South African bedrock of Graceland was as much a political statement as it was a musical adventure. At the time of the album’s mid-80s recording, a cultural boycott of South Africa was winding down but still very much in effect, and Simon’s recording in South Africa split those in the anti-apartheid movement, garnering support, controversy and protests. The album’s commercial success (it peaked at #3 in the U.S., topped the chart in seven countries, charted three singles, sold five million copies and won two Grammys), heavy touring and a filmed release of a concert in Zimbabwe, provided worldwide exposure and long-lasting career impact for Simon’s collaborators, but didn’t immediately sway opinion of those who felt the boycott should take precedence.

The album’s been reissued before, including a 2004 CD that added three bonus tracks, but this twenty-fifth anniversary box set is a deservedly plush reissue of a landmark. In addition to the original eleven track album, the set includes a second CD of six bonus tracks, a DVD of the 1987 concert film The African Concert, a DVD of the documentary Under African Skies, a 76-page oversized (8-1/2 x 11-1/2) book of essays, interviews, photographs and notes, a poster reproduction of the album cover and a thick yellow notepad that reproduces Simon’s handwritten lyrics and notes. All of this is housed in a box made from heavy stock with a canvas-like finish. The bonus tracks collect the three from the earlier CD reissue and add three more, including a pair of instrumental demos (“You Can Call Me Al” and “Crazy Love”) and Simon’s newly recorded nine-minute musical narrative “The Story of ‘Graceland’.”

The documentary Under African Skies provides terrific context, reminding listeners that the album was a product of Simon’s political and artistic daring (or, some might argue, his naivete), and a gambit that salvaged his commercial career from the disappointment of Hearts and Bones. By following Simon on a return visit to South Africa, one sees how the album represented a great deal more than a simple musical collaboration. The passions stirred by the album’s recording circumstances dealt out more than a few scars, and though they’ve healed, they haven’t disappeared. The film is augmented with extended interviews, and the DVD is filled out with period music videos for “You Can Call Me Al,” “The Boy in the Bubble,” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” There’s also a live video of the latter song performed on Saturday Night Live in 1986.

The second DVD includes the 90-minute African Concert, filmed in 1987 in Harare, Zimbabwe and featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. Despite the joy evident in the performances, as well as in the audience reception, South Africa was still in the grip of apartheid, future president Nelson Mandela was still in jail, and Robert Mugabe had yet to reveal his later ways. The controversy surrounding the album is as much a part of its historical legacy as the music itself. The box set’s live and documentary material, insightful commentary and memorable peek into Simon’s work process add color and depth to an already rich work of art. For the millions who already own the album, the extras are worth considering, as the light shed by the annotation and detail turns the star into a supernova. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Paul Simon’s Home Page

BeauSoleil: Alligator Purse

beausoleil_alligatorpurseFine program of traditional and contemporary Cajun music

Formed in the mid-70s as a platform for Louisiana fiddler Michael Doucet’s appreciation of his native Cajun musical traditions, BeauSoleil has become an integral part of the history it sought to provide popular resuscitation. More importantly, by interweaving Cajun, zydeco, country, blues, jazz, and other sounds, BeauSoleil not only sparked renewed interest in Southern Louisianan sounds, but moved beyond simple preservation (to the consternation of some critics) to innovation. Doucet’s early studies in the UK and France provided exposure to the genre’s classic songs, the music’s European roots, and the techniques of seminal players. As the lessons were internalized the group has more freely inflected the classics with new flavors and drawn non-Cajun material into the fold. The group’s latest (their 29th release!) includes collaborations with Natalie Merchant, Garth Hudson, John Sebastian and others.

Doucet comes out blazing on the instrumental “Reel Cajun (451 N. St. Joseph),” nearly sawing his fiddle in half as he pays tribute to Dennis McGee. Second line drumming provides an apt rhythm for the French translation of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” rendered here as “Rouler et Tourner.” Julie Miller’s “Little Darlin’,” which originally appeared as a duet with her husband Buddy Miller on 2004’s Love Snuck Up, has its backwoods country twang taken upbeat by Doucet and Natalie Merchant. Cooling down with the New Orleans stroll of “Marie” (supplemented by Andy Stein’s superb sax solo) you start to feel this disc is sequenced as an evening’s dance program. The band combines classic fiddle and accordion lines with the more contemporary sound of a flat-picked guitar on the waltz-time “Valse á BeauSoleil,” and gives dancers a chance to promenade with “Bosco Stomp.”

The mid-30’s ballad “La Chanson de Théogène Dubois” is transformed with a Latin beat into “Théogène Creole,” with the flat-picked acoustic guitar, accordion and fiddle each taking a spin in the spotlight. The group also works its magic on Bobby Charles’ “I Spent All My Money Loving You,” retaining the song’s original Memphis soul with drums and organ, but adding Cajun flavors with accordion and a French translation of the verses. J.J. Cale’s skiffle-blues “The Problem” gets a more straight-up treatment, with the original’s shuffle beat emphasized in all of the instruments. Cale’s lyrics of empty-headed leaders and passive followers was a potent indictment of Bush’s failed administration, and remains a stirring call-to-arms. Amédé Ardoin’s classic “Valse á Thomas Ardoin” offers a last call from the accordion and a fitting close to BeauSoleil’s Cajun prom. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Little Darlin’
BeauSoleil’s Home Page
BeauSoleil’s Yep Roc Page