Louisiana hot: Michael Doucet’s ‘Lâcher Prise’ warms soul

Lâcher Prise: Michael Doucet’s new band knows how to let go.
Photo by Holly Brown

Why does nearly any type of music from Louisiana intoxicate the body and soul so completely? This red hot little package called “Lâcher Prise” (French for “let go”) answers that question with 10 reasons, for 40 minutes straight.

Encapsulating the deep-rooted faiths, tribulations and various delights of the state’s Native American, French, Spanish and Afro-Caribbean people, the lush melodies and handmade nature of Louisiana music envelops a listener in a diversity of spicy ambiances. A Cajun fiddle player, singer and songwriter for the ages, Grammy award winner and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow Michael Doucet, at 68, is twice as good as he was at 38, but perhaps only half as good as he’ll be at 98!

Celebrated since 1977 as the leader of BeauSoleil, he’s outdone himself here with his new band, also dubbed Lâcher Prise. Doucet, with the guitarists Chad Viator and Sarah Quintana (who also sings), bassist Chris French, and drummer Jim Kolacek, undulate in sync together right from the start, on “Water, Water.” As if harnessing the sea that figures mightily in the geography that surrounds them, the band laments the effects of a hurricane, trying—and succeeding—to make light of the devastation; playing as if a physical pressure in search of release.

That release arrives then, in the form of Boozoo Chavis’ rollicking “Lula Lula Don’t You Go to Bingo.” What may seem silly on the surface comes off as one of the most addicting tunes I’ve ever heard. The stomping, sawing music, coupled with the repeated refrain of the title’s counsel, can only have one result — let go.

The endlessly colorful palette of music here continues with the gentle “Dites Moi Pas” (“Don’t Tell Me”), featuring Quintana in lovely voice, the spooky “Bad Woman,” and “Walking on a Mardi Gras Day,” which Doucet claims, despite its seemingly dark nature, to be one of the truest love songs he’s ever written. The affair climaxes with “Cajun Gypsy,” fluttering and diving like a butterfly on Doucet’s fiddle, and the strings of guests the Turtle Island Quartet. Loosening up like that would do us all a world of good. Lacher Prise! This music pumps the blood to the heart, and thus, soothes the soul. Happy Valentine’s Day!

–Tom Clarke

Michael Doucet
Lâcher Prise
Compass Records Group
Release: Feb. 14, 2020

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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