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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #38 March-April 2002

Various Artists

Evangeline Made: A Tribute To Cajun Music (Vanguard)

Though the Cajun musical tradition celebrates the spirit of a tightly knit community, Evangeline Made invites a diverse array of visitors to its crawfish boil. Singing in the French patois common in the countryside of southwest Louisiana, backed by the accordion and fiddle that call waltzers and two-steppers to the dance floor, an variety of artists including Richard and Linda Thompson (separately), Nick Lowe, Linda Ronstadt, John Fogerty, Rodney Crowell, Maria McKee, Patty Griffin and David Johansen engage in musical interplay so soulful and vibrant it transcends the language barrier.

Producer Ann Savoy enlists her accordionist husband Marc, Beausoleil’s brothers Doucet (fiddler Michael and guitarist David), and slide guitarist Sonny Landreth (who cut his musical teeth with Clifton Chenier and Zachary Richard before going national with John Hiatt) to provide musical settings that renew and extend Cajun tradition rather than simply re-creating it.

In paying homage to the legacy, the guest artists contribute signature touches, from the “Bad Moon Rising” guitar that punctuates Fogerty’s rendition of “Diggy Diggy Lo”, to the harmonica coda that caps Johansen’s “Ma Mule”, to the bluesy shuffle of Crowell’s “Blues De Bosco”.

Thus, the collection honors the music not as a folk purist’s artifact, but as a living dynamic. Not one of the fourteen cuts seems less than a labor of love, with Ronstadt and Ann Savoy singing like sisters through the close harmonies of their two cuts (one featuring Richard Thompson on lead guitar), while the traditional material brings a mature depth to McKee’s performances and a smoky melancholy to Griffin’s, a revelatory dimension for each.

It’s fitting that producer Savoy is now working with T Bone Burnett on a movie soundtrack (for The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood), as the sort of recipe that nourished millions of listeners with O Brother, Where Art Thou? finds an even spicier equivalent in Evangeline Made.

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Originally Featured in Issue #38 March-April 2002

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