||During a workshop at the 2002 Dewey Balfa Cajun and
Creole Heritage Day, Al Berard explained that in years past Cajuns from the Atchafalaya
Basin in the Breaux Bridge and Cecilia area saw the Cajun Prairie region around Eunice and
Mamou as a distant enclave. The isolation of the different regions of Cajun culture
has long since been overcome, but the distinctive traditions have not been forgotten and
now provide a rich musical heritage for Cajuns playing in the 21st century.
All members of the band the Basin Brothers are natives of the Atchafalaya
region, and they all come from families with ties to the water. Al Berard's father trapped
and crawfished, and other band members have similar backgrounds.
According to Pat Nyhan, Brian Rollins, and David Babb in their guide
to Cajun and Zydeco music, Berard and his friends started a band named after the Basin in
1982. The first albums were released on the Flying Fish label, beginning with Let's
Get Cajun in 1990, which received a Grammy nomination in the traditional folk
category, and Staying' Cajun in 1991. Danny Collet was featured on accordion and
vocals. Errol Verret subsequently joined the band on accordion. In 1996, the Basin
Brothers released Dans la Louisiane. Berard wrote and sings the title song, and
the CD also includes classic songs like "La Valse du Pont d'Amour,"
"Mulberry Waltz," "Lacassine Special," and "La Valse de
|The photos at right misrepresent the music found on
the Basin Brothers' latest CD, which consists entirely of twin fiddle tunes, but they do
say something about Al Berard's generosity in helping his fellow musicians in every way he
can. On a memorable Saturday in February 2002, the Basin Brothers performed music from
their new CD, Deux Violons, at the Liberty Theater. In the closing numbers they
invited Wilson Savoy, son of accordion player Marc Savoy, to play with them. Wilson
regularly helps out with the sound system at the Liberty, but it was his first time to
play on stage, a performance that was greeted by prolonged applause.
Released on the band's own label, Old Man Records, the CD features songs from
an era in Cajun music that predated the accordion, as well as several original songs. The
CD begins with a spirited version of "Jump the Fence" (originally recorded on
Dans la Louisiane), then steps back in time to an old-fashioned Dennis
McGee waltz, returns to a more modern fiddle sound with "Evangeline Two-Step,"
and then offers listeners the beautiful "Fais Do Do Waltz," which apparently is
an original composition. Though none of the music is credited, another lovely song,
"Tommy's Waltz," is presumably written by Tommy Bodin, who plays bass and
guitar. "La Fettes' March" is indeed a march, a rarity on a Cajun album.
"Attakapa's Trail," sung in English, is a tribute to the region's native
Americans. After several other songs, including "Jolie Blonde," the CD ends with
"Pop's Waltz," performed with only twin fiddles and vocals, the way Cajuns
played 100 years ago.
In addition to Al Berard on fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, and Tommy
Bodin, the other members of the Basin Brothers are Keith Blanchard on drums and triangle,
and Faren Serrette on fiddle and guitar.
For more information,
including booking contacts, go to the Basin Brothers' official web site.
||Al Berard also plays twin fiddle music with Karen England on the CD
Feet Off the Ground, released in 2000 by Swallow Records. England, who is
from Seattle, learned to play the Cajun fiddle with Dewey Balfa. The CD features twin
fiddles in the style of Dennis McGee and Sady Courville. They are shown performing at a
workshop during Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Day in April 2002.