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Beausoleil "La Danse de la Vie" Rhino

April 29, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

The most versatile, most innovative Cajun band around, Beausoleil manages with each album to both strengthen the music's roots and lengthen its branches. "La Danse de la Vie" finds the group in peak form.

The title track opens the album thematically and musically, echoing the ancient tunes on which the group's six members cut their teeth. Band leader/fiddler Michael Doucet (who wrote or co-wrote 12 of these 13 selections) sings of a bayou man who does nothing all day but play his fiddle; at first he is derided by his neighbors, but ultimately he is appreciated for the unique character of his music. The album closes with an achingly beautiful waltz in tribute to just such a man, Dewey Balfa, the great Cajun fiddler who died last year.

In between, the band does everything from a stripped-down traditional twin-fiddle tune (modified by Doucet from a song by his mentors Dennis McGee and Sady Courville) to a country two-step (Roy Hayes' "Oh What a Life," with a guest vocal by Mary-Chapin Carpenter). But even as Beausoleil stretches the basic Cajun sound and pushes at musical boundaries, it never veers far from the crucial values of family, friendship and community that have kept the Cajun people and culture alive for 400 years. As Doucet sings, "O ye yaie, life is good . . . Come on, follow me."

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