LFR’s Rootstock at Vermilionville Performance Center, Oct. 5, 2011: Rock ’n’ Roll En Français and Bière Noire
Cajun music has always appropriated or adapted songs, melodies, and instrumentation from other genres of American music, especially country, and sometimes Cajun bands have ventured into rock ‘n’ roll (like Lawrence Walker’s “Allons Rock ‘n’ Roll,” to name one older example). But, to my knowledge, there has never been a CD like “En Français: Cajun ’n’ Creole Rock ’n’ Roll,” with 13 covers of classic songs from the sixties and seventies, all sung in Louisiana French, performed by top Louisiana bands. The CD was produced by Louis Michot of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, with support from Louisiana Folk Roots, the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Bayou Teche Bières, whose brewmaster Karlos Knott served as executive producer.

Wednesday evening, Oct. 5, 2011, LFR and Bayou Teche Brewing held Rootstock, a CD release party that also celebrated the introduction of Bière Noire, a new variety of LA 31 beer (go to bayoutechebrewing.com/ and be prepared to verify your age). The event was held at Vermilionville’s Performance Center in Lafayette. Four of the bands on the CD were featured: Lost Bayou Ramblers, Feufollet, Bonsoir Catin, and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, with Brother Dege, playing guitar in between bands and ending the show with his Jimi Hendrix inspired guitar version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which is the fourteenth cut on the CD. Todd Mouton, LFR executive director, served as emcee for the event.

The CD liner includes the French lyrics to all of the songs. Anyone interested can google the English lyrics online. The French version sometimes may be more direct or expressive. Instead of “But when you want money for people with minds that hate” from the Beatles’ “Revolution,” Cedric Watson sings “Mais si tu veux l’argent des malfecteurs.” The band “Les Malfecteurs” changes the opening lines of “Wooly Bully” from “Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quarto” to “Un deux, un deux tracas!” Instead of “Feeling better now that we're through” from “You’re No Good,” Christine Balfa sings “Après sentir mieux qu’on a cassé la paille.” But make no mistake: although the words are in Louisiana French and many of the songs include accordions and fiddles, the music is very much American rock ’n’ roll.

Here are the songs on the CD:

“Ma Génération” (“My Generation”), written by Pete Townshend and recorded by the Who in 1965, performed by the Lost Bayou Ramblers with the same energy and force they always bring to Cajun music.

“Blues de Roadhouse” (“Roadhouse Blues”), released in 1970 by the Doors, covered by Corey Ledet, whose blues accordion is perfect for this song.

“T’es Pas Bon” (“You’re No Good”), first recorded in 1963 and later a major hit in 1975 for Linda Ronstadt, Cajunized here to perfection by Bonsoir Catin with Christine Balfa on vocals--which, in a way, completes the circle after Ronstadt teamed with Ann Savoy as the ZoZo sisters for several French and Creole songs, one with Christine on triangle, on the 2006 CD “Adieu False Heart.”

“Wooly Bully,” originally recorded in 1965 by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, done here by Les Malfecteurs with a wonderful accordion-fiddle vibe that somehow reminds me of “La porte d’en arrière.”

“Me Voilà” (“Reach Out: I’ll Be There”), originally from the Four Tops in 1966, performed by Feufollet with lead vocals by Anna Laura Edmiston, the Motown beat very much intact, punctuated by Anna Laura’s tambourine.

“Révolution” (“Revolution”) from the Beatles in the turbulent year of 1968, with Cedric Watson covering the version in which John Lennon unequivocally refuses to support political violence and offers what to me at the time seemed an inane response, necessarily preserved in the French lyrics: “Tu connais ça va d’être tout correct.” Today, listening to Cedric’s rockin’ accordion, I can really believe that everything will be all right.

“Oh Catin” (“Oh! Darling”), from the Beatles in 1969 with a swamp pop feel, turned into great South Louisiana music by Kristi Guillory on vocals and Bonsoir Catin. (The song was previously recorded by Jay Randall on a Lanor 45. For more about the swamp pop influence on the Beatles, check out Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh!_Darling.)

“Au Long de la Rivière” (“Down by the River”), the Neil Young hit from 1969, transformed by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys into what may be the best version of this song anywhere, stretching for almost ten minutes with virtuoso accordion, fiddle, and guitar solos.

“La Bord de Chemin” (“In the Street”), otherwise known as the theme song to “That 70’s Show,” originally performed by Cheap Trick and nicely covered by Feufollet, incorporating some pop accordion licks.

“L’argent” (“Money, That’s What I Want”), Motown’s first hit from 1960, later covered by the Beatles and here performed as Cajun rock ‘n’ roll by Les Malfecteurs using Barrett Strong’s original lyrics except for changing “Your lovin' give me such a thrill” to “Tu fais l’amour comme une malfecteure.”

“L’homme en Fer” (“Iron Man”) performed by Isle Dernière, a Houma-area band committed to Louisiana French, in a version that conveys the same sense of menace as the Black Sabbath heavy metal original from 1970.

“Eh Joe” (“Hey Joe”), a popular R&B song from the 1960s covered by many bands, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience, giving Corey Ledet another opportunity to display his mastery of the piano accordion.

“Moi, J’aime Rock ’n’ Roll” (“I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”), a hit for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in 1981, in a version by the Lost Bayou Ramblers that serves as the theme song for the entire CD project. (Until Googling the song’s title, I was blissfully unaware that “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” was also recorded in 2002 by another Louisiana musician, Britney Spears.)

“En Français” will be featured 12 to 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, on the Heritage Stage at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. I am certain the CD will be on sale at the festival. As of this writing, I have not located any source for online sales of the CD, but I’m sure it will be available soon.

For a listing of Cajun and Zydeco bands and Mardi Gras photos included on these Flickr pages, go to www.cajunzydecophotos.com
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