BeauSoleil with a sneak preview of new album

BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet - Live In Louisiana
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet – Live In Louisiana
by Susan Budig

It must be the air of Louisiana that transports their sound with consummate clarity because I hear Jimmy Breaux lay down powerful riffs with his accordion as never before. Or maybe it is the decisive touch of Ivan Klisanin as he mixes and masters the album boosting David Doucet’s usually too-soft accompaniments into enviable guitar solos. Could be that the band, playing on their home turf, feels a copacetic vibe from their audience and plays responsively.

Whatever the explanation, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet’s album produced by Todd Mouton, and breaking virgin ground for the new record label, Way Down in Louisiana, sets the bar so high, every other musician will have to stand on tiptoe to reach it.

The energy recorded in Live In Louisiana sparks from the first stroke of Michael’s bow, pulling the horsehairs down the fiddle string as they play Le Jig Français, to the final percussive scrape of Billy Ware’s corrugated abs in Bye Bye Boozoo.

Michael’s voice invites the audience to listen carefully as he sings their usual repertoire with new rhythm and slurs. When the band presents Tasso/One-Step de McGee, it’s as if I’m hearing it, not for the two hundredth time, but for the first time, so refreshing and transformed does it sound.

After thirty years of togetherness, they haven’t diminished in any way. While Michael may not be shattering the tracks with shrieks of a grief-stricken lover (think Donnez Moi Pauline) he’s still wooing every woman in the audience with his sad tale of J’ai les blues. What makes Bunk’s Blues even more enticing is Breaux’s mostly- background bluesy accordion. Jimmy, I never knew you could swing like that! About thirty seconds into the number, Breaux solos with the bluest squeeze box sound his side of the Mississippi.

The album’s strongest pieces come in the second half of the set. Michael plays a few different notes than usual in Tasso/One-Step de McGee that grab my attention. A simple switch from maybe a fifth to a third changes the emotional content of a particular phrase, giving the whole piece a curious, sometimes pensive flavor.

And if I’m not exhausted after wildly dancing for six and a half minutes to Tasso/One-Step de McGee, I’m compelled to intensify my movements with the next
song, L’Ouragon {The Hurricane} as I match my motion to their vitality. Tommy Alesi keeps me moving with his insistent beat that never overpowers, but never backs down, either.

Billy’s adornments on one of my favorite offerings, Chanson d’Acadie, pull this piece into the present, but keep the spirit of old French music intact. Billy amazes me every time. He’s like an old Italian cook, a pinch of this, a smattering of that and he’s stirring up the perfect batch of exquisitely flavored sauce.

I’ve been in-love with Freeman’s Zydeco since first hearing it on their L’Echo disc. On this album, the band’s jocularity in the background sways me to listen to their tenth track over and over. That typifies what I love about this whole album. It’s a live recording, which I find irresistible, but the attention to detail, the purity of sound, and the ability to hear every instrument, precision usually borne of studio work, propels this album into first place for me.

If there’s any complaints I would say that I wish it were longer, or that a couple tracks, Quelle Belle Vie and Newz Reel were replaced by other songs. Neither of those two numbers contain any interesting variations beyond what I’ve heard on other discs.

Right now, the only place to purchase this CD is at the record label’s website
( Producer Todd Mouton told me that the album will debut nationally in the fall with a correspondingly wider distribution.

Nothing gets better than a live performance by BeauSoleil and now I’ve got the best of them captured on a CD.