It's a pretty safe bet that this is the only review you'll read today for an album of music inspired by early French Creole settlers in an area of Southern Illinois and Missouri once known as Upper Louisiana. Cadet Rouselle, newly issued on the Swallow Records label, is the latest musical expression from Dennis Stroughmatt, who has spent years bringing the sounds of early Americana - especially that with a French twist - to listeners.
Stroughmatt is a well-known and highly respected musician who has performed regionally and nationally with his group, Creole Stomp, entertaining audiences with some outstanding swamp music in all varieties. But even though he's completely at home with Cajun and Zydeco, this album follows up on 2006's Gambler's Fiddle, and continues his quest to recognize the music of early French settlers in his home area of Upper Louisiana.
He's joined by his wife Jennifer, who is a skilled multi-instrumentalist and singer herself, and several other accomplished musicians. Included among them is bassist Bob Krumm and banjoist Jon Watson, both from Creole Stomp.
The music itself is often reminiscent of - and in some cases, nearly identical to - Cajun music, and shares many of the same characteristics, so fans of that genre will find the album very listenable. Some of the tracks are a little different though, with a soft and lilting sound that might give the listener something new to experience.
A good example is "Isabeau se Promene," which sounds almost like a medieval ballad from the old country, and "Marie Madeleine," a piece that features some especially nice vocals by Stroughmatt. Singing in French, he is obviously at home with the music and his strong, reedy but confident voice rings true.
Some of the livelier pieces are more reminiscent of Cajun music, but there's certainly nothing wrong with that — Stroughmatt and his band thrive on that type of music. Especially enjoyable were "Les Prisons de Nantesand," and "La Pommier d'un Ange," an instrumental that features a strong lead from the star's fiddle.
Something a little different, but worth a listen for any music lover with an open mind. (That's you, right?)