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Music Review: Pine Leaf Boys – Homage au Passé

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Ax-i-om [ak’-see-uh m]1. a self-evident truth that requires no proof. (Thanks to Dictionary.com.)

Cajun music must be danced to. It takes only a few seconds listening to the first cut, “Festival Acadien Two Step,” to realize the truth of this axiom: The two-step, the waltz, or whatever type of dance you want to do, or even call it, isn’t important. However, it’s only when you dance that you fully understand the axiom.

The Pine Leaf Boys are a young group, but they hit the ground running and haven’t slowed down yet. Some of the more prestigious venues they’ve played include Wolf Trap in Vienna VA; Tipitina's in New Orleans; Saulieu Cajun/Zydeco Festival in Saulieu, France; Rhythms of the World in Hitchin, England; Jazz Festival in New Orleans; The Kennedy Center in Washington DC; and Festival Acadien in Lafayette, LA (best Cajun Festival in the World). All they need now is a Grammy nomination. Wait a minute … They’ve already got two!

This CD, which alternates on successive cuts to both fast and slow songs, contains 12 tracks of sometimes tender, sometimes raucous Cajun music, all sung in French. They’re as American as American can be, but French is one of the two native tongues that most Cajuns grow up with. And don’t forget that section of the good ole USA was originally French, comprises 828,800 square miles, and cost a total of 15 million bucks, which works out to about 18 bucks per square mile. Did we get a bargain?

This is the quintet’s third album, and, as the title says, it’s an homage to the past. The group’s intent, in addition to making their music popular, is simply preservation of the same. I read recently that something like 1500 languages will die out this year alone, so it’s no small feat to preserve the Cajun (Acadian) language; however, it’s a much simpler task than saving the coastal areas of the state of Louisiana, which are also eroding alarmingly.

Based on local Cajun festivals held in various cities of the US, I’d say it’s working. Milwaukee, a city I left about a year ago, and Washington DC, my current home, both have celebrations which are connected to the Cajun, although not specifically named as such.

This superb Cajun creation is a rollicking, rowdy, yet tender album which deserves recognition and listening. The album comprises both originals and classics, and while there are few surprises in the style of the music, one thing that surprised me is the lack of washboard and triangle, two mainstays of usual Cajun fare. On the other hand, their lack is almost unnoticed, and the group certainly does quite well without them. Of course the accordion and fiddle comprise the real backbone of Cajun music, and they’re both certainly present here, throughout every song.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • doug m

    Thanks for drawing my attention to this band.