Music » Critics' Picks

Michael Doucet with BeauSoleil

Saturday, November 8; Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center

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The room is swirling with dancers, partners flowing across the floor, each foot moving as if the other is commanding it, responding to the most basic rhythms of the music. All of the instruments are working off the basic two-step or waltz pattern. No matter how many extra beats you may hear from the fiddle or the accordion, the bass and the drums are locked into the pulse that Cajun music simply cannot lose.

Cajun music grew in the Louisiana bayou communities settled by the French Acadian people after they left Canada hundreds of years ago. When it was discovered by record companies in the 1920s, this strange variant of old French folk music sounded like nothing else in America. By the end of the 1950s, it had fallen from favor, as younger Cajuns looked to abandon their culture in favor of the seemingly more sophisticated modern one beamed in on television.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, where Michael Doucet was at the forefront of a new set of younger musicians looking to revive the old traditions. Doucet formed BeauSoleil in 1975, and this band has become the very definition of Cajun music to the world at large. Of course, BeauSoleil plays old tunes as well as originals in the spirit of the old masters, but Doucet's interests have never been limited to revivals. He takes the influence of Cajun history as his foundation and writes new music that surpasses anything that's come before.

Despite mixing melodic imagination with instrumental solos of the highest order (from Doucet on fiddle, his brother David Doucet on acoustic guitar and Jimmy Breaux on the accordion), BeauSoleil never stops thinking of itself primarily as a dance band. All the proof one needs of Doucet's range as a writer and BeauSoleil's talents as a band is contained in Encore, Encore!! The Best of BeauSoleil on Rhino, collecting nineteen of the finest moments from the past dozen years. Or catch them in concert and watch how people find it so easy to dance.

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