Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Beausoleil on DVD

The members of Beausoleil have a pretty good racket going. Called the “Best Cajun Band in the world” by everyone from Garrison Keillor to the lowliest newspaper calendar copywriter, Beausoleil has merely to live up to the expectations of a fan base looking to drink beer and dance two-steps or waltzes. Keep the rhythms flowing, and they can play pretty much anything in the melodies. I fully expect these guys could get away with a medley of Ornette Coleman and Jay-Z, as long as the words were sung in French and the chink-a-chink kept beating.

All of which is cool by me, since I’ve been that guy twirling that girl around the dance floor, and I’m usually the guy with his jaw dropping to the floor at the exquisite melodic turns of fiddler Michael Doucet and the flat-picking delights of his brother guitarist David Doucet. Which is not to say I don’t love accordionist Jimmy Breaux, the third cog in the Beausoleil front line. I don’t mean to overlook him, because he nudges the traditional accordion styles quite nicely.

“Beausoleil Live From the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival” is a wonderful DVD document of a typical concert performance. It was recorded two years ago, and pretty much shows me what I’ve long thought – that Jazz Fest is full of great music, but I wouldn’t want to subject myself to the enormity of it. So, bring on more DVDs, folks, so I can hear what else I’ve been missing. (As an aside, I was pretty much shocked, though I certainly shouldn’t have been, to suddenly see St. Louis’s own dancing machine Beatle Bob front and center in his own private, secure area at the foot of the stage.)

Beausoleil start out here with some reels, then a ballad or two, then some two-steps, and then about half-way through, they start mixing influences from outside the Cajun tradition. The guitar, accordion, and fiddle meld on the melodies, while the bass, drums, and percussion drive home the familiar beats. Michael Doucet’s singing is another delight, though I can’t figure out how to tell you about it. It’s the solos that send me into raptures, anyway. All the rest is just context for short and inventive improvisations which bend the familiar into new shapes.

Each member of Beausoleil was interviewed for the extra features, though I haven’t watched them yet. The little snippets included in the film are inconsistent. The brothers Doucet have the most to say, though bassist Al Tharp’s enthusiasm for his participation in such exquisite musicianship is fun to see.


Blogger Bryan A. Hollerbach said...

Medium sounds frightening in ways its creators likely didn't intend. Fallen from the days of glory (i.e., those halcyon Buffy/Angel Tuesdays), I myself scarcely even activate the TV nowadays although (a) last night, while surfing for a weather update, I was tempted for just an instant by CSI New York on one channel and Law & Order on another and (b) the proposed Night Stalker update will probably tempt me out of sheer nostalgia.


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