BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, a beloved Cajun band, will bring its irresistibly danceable music to The Palms Playhouse at 8 p.m. Thursday for a CD release party for “From Bamako to Carencro.” Tickets are $25.
Heralded by luminaries ranging from Bob Dylan (“That’s my kind of music!”) to Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor (“BeauSoleil is the greatest Cajun band in the world!”) to New Orleans musical icon Allen Toussaint (“BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, they play music that’s honest to the bone!”), BeauSoleil has been preserving, advancing and sharing Cajun music from its native Louisiana for more than 35 years.
BeauSoleil (pronounced “Boh-so-LAY”) has been the foremost ambassador for Cajun music and culture since forming in 1975, bringing it to audiences far beyond Louisiana’s Acadians (or Cajuns). The band has always maintained a dynamic balancing act of keeping the traditional flame alive while also incorporating a range of other musical traditions through its passionate and inventive experimentation.
BeauSoleil’s mix of old and new is showcased on its 25 albums and in its energetic performances; their efforts have been rewarded with 12 Grammy nominations and multiple Grammy wins as well as a devoted global following.
It all started in the late 1960s and early 1970s when fiddling frontman Michael Doucet realized the Cajun culture was dying out as members of the elder generation passed away. Doucet embarked on a passionate mission to learn, preserve and share the Cajun music, language and culture.
Doucet and BeauSoleil are credited with spearheading a remarkable cultural renaissance and elevating Cajun music to one of domestic and international acclaim — a particularly remarkable feat considering that not long ago Cajun children were prohibited from speaking Cajun French at school in an attempt to squelch the Acadian culture.
Far from strict adherence to traditional paths, BeauSoleil’s music both preserves the rich Cajun musical traditions of Louisiana, while adding elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country and blues for a savory musical stew, bringing an added level vitality to its music and making the Cajun traditions in which they are rooted very much alive rather than presented as well-preserved museum pieces.
At Thursday’s show, BeauSoleil will celebrate its just-released latest album “From Bamako to Carencro” (Compass Records). “From Bamako to Carencro,” which highlights the cultural and migratory connections between West Africa (Bamako, Mali) and Louisiana (represented in the title by Lafayette, Louisiana’s suburb Carencro), is a case in point of how well BeauSoleil braids together multiple traditions into an unexpected yet deeply satisfying whole.
Led by Michael Doucet (violin, lead vocals, accordion, guitar, mandolin), BeauSoleil whirls audiences into its kaleidoscope of rhythms, tempos and sonic textures. David Doucet contributes a richness with his rhythm and lead guitar and harmony vocals (and occasional forays into ukulele), Tommy Alesi (drums) and Billy Ware (percussion) lay down the rhythmic foundation, Mitch Reed adds the bass line — until things reach a fever pitch and Reed hands the bass over to soundman Bill Bennett, picks up his own fiddle, and then the energy in the room all but crackles as Doucet and Reed launch into a spirited series of twin-fiddle instrumentals.
Tickets for BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet’s show at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters) are $25 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out.