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New Pick of the Week

October 27, 1994|RANDY LEWIS




Everything old is new again. That old Broadway saw perfectly describes the latest from the premier Cajun band in the land.

Leader Michael Doucet conducts a guided musical tour of 20th Century Southwest Louisiana music, choosing artists and songs that have meant the most to that region's richly diverse culture. It's no coincidence these tunes also had a huge impact on Beausoleil during its two decades.

For Cajun music fans, it's the equivalent of Bob Dylan recording an album's worth of his favorite old folk songs, or Bruce Springsteen doing a whole record of his most prized early rock numbers. Doucet's liner notes explaining his picks are at once enlightening and completely free of self-aggrandizing. His sole purpose is to pay homage to those who paved the way for him.

Doucet doesn't simply replay old songs; on several, he has adapted the lyrics to salute the artists who first played them, some more than 70 years ago.

The result is an unusually diverse collection, even for the boundary-bending Beausoleil. The album opens with a traditional two-step dedicated to Doucet's friend and mentor, seminal fiddler Dennis McGee, and includes waltzes associated with Amede Breaux and Joe Falcon. But it also strays wide from Cajun business-as-usual with the gloriously meandering ballad "La Ville Des Manteau" and a couple of jaunty string-band numbers from the '20s and '30s. Most of the tunes here are rarely heard these days outside the dance halls of Acadiana.

It all blends seamlessly, giving Beausoleil one of the finest albums of its career, and anyone remotely interested in Cajun music an invaluable insider's look at one of America's most colorful regional art forms.

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