Cary Morin brings unique spirit to ‘Dockside Saints’

Cary Morin blends Piedmont blues with Cajun and Creole on “Dockside Saints.”
Don Casper Photography

Cary Morin’s rise began more than three decades ago, but he startled the blues world in 2016 with his fifth album, “Cradle to the Grave.” Morin writes, sings and plays the blues from the exclusive, spirited perspective of his Big Sky, Crow tribal heritage. Traces of folk, bluegrass, and even a touch of jam band essences, dust his music.

He calls his style Native Americana. With “Dockside Saints,” he’s added an essential ingredient to his stew by recording at the mojo-dripping Dockside Studio, in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. The album is produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Tony Daigle, and Morin is joined by bassist Lee Allen Zeno, drummer Brian Brignac, accordionist Corey Ledet, keyboardist Eric Adcock, fiddler Beau Thomas, along with guitarists John Fohl and Keith Blair. They cut steamy, bayou-rooted grooves for these 12 brand-new songs, and every one of them clicks differently, all lively in tune and engaging in viewpoint.

With a roll of percussion and a subtle discharge of accordion, “Nobody Gotta Know” gets the album off rightly, shaking and rocking like the Radiators did, and as Little Feat emulated well. Ledet pumps the groove, and Blair plays a solo that cuts a spicy zigzag. Morin sings in a worn, yet creamy voice, with harmony vocalist Celeste Di Iorio often accenting his delivery with gospel elation.

Morin approaches Van Morrison territory in voice and in musical approach, on both “Exception to the Rule” and “Because He Told Me So.” The former rejoices in devotion to a life-long partner — “Everything is better next to you!” — and the latter, like a march, rivets in deference to faith. On “Prisoner,” a profound blues that would have fit comfortably on the Cradle album, Morin shows off his exceptional fingerstyle guitar skills, playing like the devil, but with warm heart.

“Tonight” spotlights Thomas on fiddle, the mood of it voodoo-swampy. But then “Janie Rae” kicks up another Cajun storm. With “Valley of the Chiefs,” Morin and the band play with distinct purpose, combining blues and jazz and the South, and by it all, conjure wide-open spaces and leather-clad feet dancing in ceremony. Cary Morin’s obvious talent and wisdom, and his perfectly subtle incorporation of two different heritages, has resulted in an extraordinary blues album. It’s another fine mark of a real American blues star, ascending rapidly.

-Tom Clarke

  • Cary Morin
  • ‘Dockside Saints’
  • Release: Aug. 7, 2020

Related review: “Cradle to the Grave” keeps the blues alive.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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