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Feature review: Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and the Cajun Country Revival, The Right Combination

Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy, and the Cajun Country Revival
The Right Combination
[Valcour Records (2011)]

A day after The Foghorn Trio wrapped up its auspicious debut at Joel Savoy‘s countryside studio in October 2010, Savoy (fiddle), Jesse Lége (accordion), the Trio, Paul Brainard (electric/steel guitar), and Ned Folkerth (drums) immediately set forth to record one of the most unusual Cajun-vintage country recordings in recent memory. It’s not strictly the accordion-dominated Cajun dancehall variety, nor is it pure old-time weepy country recalling the ghosts of the Carter Family. But as the title track from Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton implies, it’s the right combination of everything: 11 tracks of artfully blended musical personalities for an essential collaborative feel.

Savoy represents the Cajun fiddle tradition that’s most evident on the infectious rendition of Dennis McGee’s “Courville’s Fetish” that recalls somewhat of the rattling rustic-ness of the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Nadine Landry rocks it up on the tongue-twisting “Tippy Toeing” that’s considerably peppier than the version found on Landry and bandmate Sammy Lind’s Granddad Favorite’s. Even on the English-sung tracks, Lége pumps buoyant, joyful rides, giving the faux impression that the tune was part of the Cajun repertoire all long.

Two bilingual songs incorporate the Cajun and country worlds the best. “Wondering” first originated with Joe Werner of the Riverside Ramblers (The Hackberry Ramblers English language spinoff) in 1937 and later emerged in 1952 as Webb Pierce’s first number one hit. “Corina” (“Corina, Corina”) was a staple of many a string band/western swing aggregation of the 1930s. Even legendary Cajun accordionist Lawrence Walker was in on the act recording an adaptation of it titled “Alberta, Alberta.”

Moreover, these tracks are a reminder of what a powerhouse performer Lége really is, not only in his barreling rides but also in his emotive, gut-wrenching vocals (“Debut Dans La Porte”). He’s a throwback to an era that has long since vanished and probably is the ultimate deciding factor of why this Cajun-country concept works so well. For Cajun and old-time country music aficionados alike, The Right Combination is an instant underground classic. Recommended.

—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)

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