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Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole
Le Soleíl Est Levé
[Lache Pas Records (2011)]
On this mostly original affair—his third release in less than two years—Cedric Watson continues to remind listeners that there’s a bigger Creole world out there beyond his South Louisiana homestead. Only a few songs are easily identifiable as zydeco (“Bye Bye Mon Coeur Fait Mal”) but Watson sees the big picture, which includes such Creole Caribbean idioms as zouk, meringue, kompa and rara (pronounced rah-rah) that are masterfully blended into the arrangements. Watson sets up the island fever by playing a two-row accordion, a squeezebox staple of the islands, and features a clarinetist/saxophonist that’s also typical of Creole Caribbean music. Reedman Lance Boston often plays in unison with Watson’s precisely played accordion.
“La Danse Kalinda” is culturally significant due to its origins as a martial arts dance with sticks once practiced by Haitian slaves. The moves were quick, sexy, and were discouraged by threatened slave owners who feared such dancing could lead to an uprising. Eventually it evolved into couples dancing with handkerchiefs (so they wouldn’t really touch each other), and the more contemporary Cajun manifestation (“Allons danse Colinda”) where a couple intends to dance close together when the chaperons aren’t watching.
Stylistically and lyrically Watson accomplishes a lot here. He swings madly on the infectious “Les Blues Creole” with Chris Stafford’s killer guitar and keyboard rides and plays an African kora, a symbolic root, on “I’ll Live Till I Die.” Some songs impart important messages, like the title song “La Soleil Est Leve,” which urges to rise up and be productive with the day. For this fertile-minded innovator, the sun never goes down.