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PINE LEAF BOYS - Blues De Musicien

PINE LEAF BOYS - Blues De Musicien
Arhoolie CD. 533

'At first sample this might seem to be just an extremely good straight-down-the-line Cajun album with a touch of bluesiness, but as it progresses on through its 50 minutes you become aware that the Pine Leaf Boys have considerably more to offer.  It has a pretty high count on the feelgood factor that characterises the best Cajun, sure, but also that extra zing that sets the genre’s very best exponents apart from the efficient-but-routine.  The qualities of youth and experience combine in the Pine Leaf Boys to produce something really special, for the five young lads, who self-evidently live, eat and breathe Cajun, embrace an enviable pedigree.  Wilson Savoy is son of Ann and Marc and brother to Joel, while Cedric Watson is an impressive Creole stylist, and the two are capable of switching adeptly between accordion and fiddle or else making up a superb twin-fiddle line.  Guitarist Jon Bertrand, guitarist/bassist Blake Miller and drummer Drew Simon, who together bring an extra-dynamic sense of rhythm to that authentic Cajun front-line, complete the lineup.

I just love the tremendous, forthright raunchy grit in the Pine Leaf Boys’ performances – best evidenced in La Valse De Belizaire (where that sawing solo fiddle just penetrates right into the soul!) and the slow-blues Ma Petite Femme, but there’s a powerful stridency to the band’s faster numbers too that seems to stem as much from rockin’ riffin’ on the spit and sawdust of the dance-floor and the chunky bass work throughout is noteworthy too. Having said that, there’s a matchless quality of lonesome, measured beauty in the PLBs’ take on Belton Richard’s Pardon Waltz.  Another interesting gambit is a freshly “cajunised” version of Wild Side Of Life, translated into French and given a jaunty gumbo swing, and a gutsy acappella juré (Quand Rita Est Arrivée), an original composition by Jon, makes for an unusual addition.  The nonsense lyric of Pine Leaf Boogie is set to a melody allegedly “inspired by a Cajun’s interpretation of a zydeco tune” (go figure!) and the band’s thrash-and-shout-ahead interpretation of Michael Doucet’s pumping Zydeco Gris-Gris fair banishes any evil spirits that might be lurking. Yes, Blues De Musicien is a uniquely fresh and vital Cajun-based disc that gives a new full-throttle meaning to the familiar exhortation to let the bon temps rouler!

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.