My musically savvy daughter exclaimed with a little doubt, “What is this?” as “Freetown Crawl / Fightin’ville Brawl” pulsed in the kitchen during our pre-Christmas celebration. It was my first spin of “Kalenda,” and that strange, ultimately explosive track, I must admit may not have been the best in family-style holiday choices. But, damn is it ever addictive within the eclectic context of this new album by Lost Bayou Ramblers, one of Louisiana’s finest young French-traditional Cajun outfits.
The Ramblers are obviously exhilarated here, shaping an ages-old, sacred style of music without upsetting the culture one iota. The set begins rather innocuously with a fade into “Sabine Turnaround,” a jig that comes off straight at first, until you notice what’s identified in the liners as a T-fer. Although dully electronic in sound, it’s a fascinating percussion instrument that’s played, not sequenced. Man, does it add a cool component to the mix. But make no mistake. Brothers Andre (accordion, lap steel) and Louis Michot (vocals, fiddle, T-fer, floor tom), along with Eric Heigle (drums, T-fer), Korey Richey (bass, guitar, T-fer, etc.), and Jonny Campos (guitar, pedal steel, “tapes”), hosting a plethora of guests, all play their asses off while making music that’s at once comfortably reverent, and revolutionary.
“Cate Clair Waltz” waltzes, of course, but with anguish it seems. Naturally, all these songs are sung in French, so most will be left to interpret meaning via the emotional intonation in the tuneful voices, if not the actual lyrics. That makes this music all the more compelling and fun.
In “Granny Smith,” they use the T-fer as a fuse to trigger an explosive rocker, the wood, strings, and voice continuing the fury. “Rice Pump” accentuates the Caribbean dance origins of the Kalenda, while “Nezpique” actually sounds like an Irish dance party. The title song perfectly captures the tribal nature of the origins of this wonderful artistic expression.
Go to the band’s site for the vast and very compelling details behind “Kalenda.” But regardless, do listen to this music, and revel in a treasure that’s being noticed across the board, from the locals to the likes of Jack White. Suffice to say, that “Kalenda” is nominated for a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Album comes as no surprise.
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Label: Rice Pump Records