Michael Doucet is pictured, top, performing at the Liberty Theater during a special tribute to Amédé Ardoin and Dennis McGee, and playing at Downtown Alive in Lafayette in 1999. The next two shots were both taken during performances in Eunice by the Savoy-Doucet Band: Michael Doucet performs with Marc and Ann Savoy on several albums and in concerts around the nation. The bottom picture is from the 1999 performance at Downtown Alive.
|Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil
have deservedly gained international renown for their inspired interpretation of
traditional Cajun music and their innovation in "Cajunizing" other musical
styles--jazz, Caribbean, or even Tex-Mex. Doucet began playing in a folk rock band with
his cousin, Zachary Richard, when they were about 12. Growing up in Scott near Lafayette
at a time when the Cajun renaissance was just beginning, Doucet did not fully appreciate
the rich musical heritage of his native region until he visited France, where he
discovered that French bands were performing traditional Cajun music. On his return
to Louisiana, he sought out musicians like Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and Dennis McGee.
Doucet originally planned to attend graduate school in New Mexico to study English
Romantic poetry, but, as he told Barry Ancelet in Cajun and Creole Music Makers,
"J'ai barguiné Blake pour Balfa et je suis rentré plutôt chez nous."
[However, Doucet has recorded music to accompany Blake's Songs of Innocence and
Experience on Red House Records.] Through his close friendship with McGee, who died
in 1989 at age 96, Doucet learned about traditional Cajun music extending back before the
introduction of the accordion and including music produced through the collaboration
between McGee and Amédé Ardoin.
Doucet was a member of Coteau, a mid-seventies band that combined Cajun and rock styles, but at the same time he was performing with friends who came together to form BeauSoleil. The band's name BeauSoleil comes from a nickname for Joseph Broussard, one of the heroes in the Acadian resistance against the English in Acadie who later joined the Acadians in Louisiana. The nickname is said to describe Broussard's smile, which was bright as the sun.
BeauSoleil's debut album, "The Spirit of Cajun Music," was released in 1977. The band has recorded regularly ever since. "L'Amour ou Folie" won the Grammy award as the best traditional folk album for 1998. BeauSoleil has received seven other Grammy nominations, including a contemporary folk nomination for their 1999 CD, "Cajunization," in which they continue to explore varied musical styles while also offering interpretations of traditional Cajun songs. Their 2001 CD, "Looking Back Tomorrow," released during the 25th anniversary of the group, was recorded live at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., where BeauSoleil performed for first time at a major national venue. The CD, which has received a 2001 Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional Folk category, reprises some favorites like "Travaillier c'est trop dur," "J'ai été au bal," "Grand Mamou," "Pa Janvier" and "Parlez-nous à boire," but also introduces new songs, including one song in which Amédé Ardoin sums up his music and his life and another song in which Doucet describes his own recollections of fiddler Varise Connor. The other 2001 CD is Best of the Crawfish Years, 1985-1991, with 17 classic BeauSoleil cuts from Rounder Records.
BeauSoleil has more than 20 recordings, among them "L'Echo" (1994), "La Danse de la Vie" (1993), "Bayou Deluxe" (1993: a "best of" album), "Cajun Conja" (1991), "Deja Vu" (1990), and "Live! From the Left Coast" (1989). Doucet has a number of other recordings, including several with the Savoy-Doucet Band.
In one interview, Doucet gave explanation of the evolution of Cajun music as played by BeauSoleil: "Cajun music is wrapped up in emotion. Maybe some of the emotions, the more modern emotions, aren't adequately covered by the old songs. So that's what we try to do through our new compositions. In many ways we're the same individuals our ancestors were 300 years ago, but the times around us have changed. If the music captures where we are now, it just adds to the preservation of Cajun music."
|All photographs and text by David Simpson.|