Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mardi Gras + Zydeco = BeauSoleil

By Steve Evans

“Oh, I’m goin’ down to Mardi Gras and get me a Mardi Gras queen…” ~ Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider (1969)

Fat Tuesday falls on Feb. 24 this year, a day that sets my mind to thoughts of glorious afternoons listening to scorching music, quaffing cold drink and gazing upon beautiful women doing amazing things for the sake of a plastic, beaded Mardi Gras necklace.

Yes, and all this hot New Orleans zydeco by BeauSoleil has got me craving oyster po’boys and étouffée, baby. If you can’t make the Mardi Gras scene this year, check out the concert DVD below:

BeauSoleil storms the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with 11 tracks of authentic Cajun music. Led by Grammy-wining fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, the hypnotic N’awlins band performs an eclectic mix of zydeco, blues, folk rock, and old New Orleans jazz on this, their first DVD. The music is so pure, the concert scene so compelling, that the experience borders on sensuous.

A magical city with a storied and mysterious culture, New Orleans puts a gleam in the eye of anyone with the slightest yearning for adventure. Her people know how to party in fascinatin’ rhythm, as Doucet and his band demonstrate with ease — percussive, loud, improvisational, serpentine, and sexy. Bob Dylan (right) attended the show captured on this disc. Asked what he thought of BeauSoleil, Dylan said, “That’s my kind of music!”

That’s good enough for me.

Doucet (below) fiddles with ferocious concentration, and BeauSoleil (French for “Good Sun”) supplies tight backup with accordion, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and twin percussionists.

Together since 1975, the musicians demonstrate an eerie sense of timing and interplay, intuitively knowing when one of their number needs to solo and when it’s time to take it to the bridge. Their sound is a rich gumbo, redolent with a musical tradition that dates to the 19th century, yet always feels timeless, fresh, and vibrant. Born on the bayou, these men honor their roots.

Disc extras are generous but vary in quality. Interviews with individual members of the band are of the “blackout” variety, meaning the camera rolls until someone is finished speaking. Back in the editing suite, the uninteresting bits are carved out and discarded like bad oysters. Then the gaps are filled in with rapid blackouts/fadeups to transition between scenes. This is distracting, sometimes jarring, and implies a lack of respect for the musicians. The music videos, however, are a nice extra. In a separate interview, Doucet offers reverent recollections of fiddle greats who preceded him on the Cajun scene — a welcome bit of historical context so often missing from music DVDs.

Concert videography is crisp, but stylistically indifferent. Cuts are divided about equally between medium and tight shots of the band, and audience reaction. Although the editing rhythm is rather obvious, some of the crowd scenes alone are worth the price of the disc, as zydeco fans shake their asses and wave their hands in the air like they just don't care, beverages sloshing over the lips of their plastic cups.

The 5.1 Surround mix directs the band to the front and center channels, with ambient crowd noise flowing through the rear speakers. Truth be told, the 2.0 stereo option offered a more satisfying audio experience to these ears, with clear channel separation and more pure music.

C’mon, now, cheri know she wan’ some BeauSoleil.

So grab this DVD. Invite some friends. Goose that amplifier. Then serve up this disc with po’boys on crunchy baguettes, a cauldron of spicy gumbo and plenty of iced Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager.

Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Set List:
• Reel de Dennis McGee (Introduction)
• Newz Reel
• Happy One-Step
• Recherche d’Acadie
• Le Chanky-Chank Français
• Eunice Two-Step
• Amédé
• La Danse de la Vie
• Grand Mamou
• Zydeco X
• Poison Love
• La Terre de Mon Grandpère

Copyright © 2009 by Steve Evans // dba Cinema Uprising. All rights reserved.

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