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CD Review: BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet 

click to enlarge 2009, Yep Roc Records
  • 2009, Yep Roc Records

In Michael Doucet’s mind, the Hudson Valley and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana aren’t that far apart. Perhaps that’s why the legendary fiddler opted to record his latest release at Rhinebeck’s Clubhouse Studios with a bevy of the region’s best musicians sitting in.

Alligator Purse kicks off with some classic Cajun drones courtesy of Doucet’s driving bow on Dennis McGee’s “Reel Cajun/451 North St. Joseph St.” The track sets both the mood and the bar, and the rest of the record has little difficulty measuring up. Who exactly is here? Well, Natalie Merchant duets on Julie Miller’s “Little Darlin’,’’ leaning a little deeper into the roots than we expect from the former Maniac; John Sebastian blows mighty harp on the latter and meshes nicely with Jimmy Breaux’s accordion on “Valse a BeauSoleil,” which features Doucet’s best vocal; and banjo man Bill Keith adds sparkle to the laid-back groove of J. J. Cale’s “The Problem.”

Other guests include saxman Andy Stein, trombonist Roswell Rudd, The Band’s mad genius Garth Hudson on organ, and Happy and Artie Traum on backing vocals (the record is rightfully dedicated to the late Artie’s great spirit). But, given all of the local firepower, this is still BeauSoleil’s show, and Doucet, producer Michael Pillot, and the band crackle consistently, whether Frenchifying Bobby Charles’s “I Spent All My Money Loving You” or taking tradition forward with the set-closing “Valse a Thomas Ardoin.” www.yeproc.com.

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