Magnolia Sisters’ Après Faire le Boogie Woogie

cover artOn their third CD, Après Faire le Boogie Woogie, Louisiana’s Magnolia Sisters have cooked up a winner that pays tribute to their Cajun and Creole musical roots with an attitude that’s thoroughly modern. The three original Sisters, Ann Savoy, Jane Vidrine and Lisa Trahan Reed, are joined by young fiddler and singer Anya Shoenegge, with drums and percussion supplied by “Mr. Sister” Kenny Alleman. Savoy, Vidrine and Reed all have deep ties to the music of southern Louisiana, and all as well are experts in various aspects of its folklore and culture.

On Après Faire le Boogie Woogie, the sisters present a batch of 16 songs, mostly old-time Cajun and Creole numbers, and subtly update them in ways that reflect the experience of women in their culture. But don’t expect some sort of academic treatise: this is lively, vibrant music that reflects the musicians’ personalities and the rough-and-ready aspects of Cajun and Creole culture.

Every track’s a winner, but a few really stand out. “Nonc Adam (Uncle Adam)” is an old-school zydeco song, with rocking drums and droning bass laying the foundation for a dual fiddle and accordion attack, all supporting Vidrine’s spot-on vocals.

The a capella ballad, “Ma Petite et Mignonne,” is arresting in its simplicity and the beauty of its four-part harmonies. The harmonies are also beautiful on the sprightly cover of “Freeman’s Zydeco,” a song with lyrics by Michael Doucet set to a tune by Canray Fontenot, paying tribute to Freeman Fontenot, who benefited his community by building a school and dance-hall.

Three songs especially spotlight the way the Magnolias continue the long-time Cajun folk music tradition of borrowing, combining and updating old songs so that they stay constantly new. On “J’ai Vu Lucille,” the group sings a song arranged by Vidrine that combines two short numbers recorded by Alan Lomax in New Iberia, Louisiana in the 1930s. The two original tracks, sung by the Hoffpauir sisters, are among the many highlights of the superb Rounder Heritage release, Cajun and Creole Music, 1934-1937. The Sisters added a final verse that nicely completes “Charpentier,” an old song about how women can’t make up their minds about what kind of men they want. And they’ve picked and chosen among many versions of the Cajun rocker, “Keep A Knockin'” to present a hot closing track, complete with some wonderfully spikey electric guitar from Savoy.

As exciting as the Magnolia Sisters’ music is on this CD, it’s bound to be even better in its natural setting, the dance hall. Keep an eye on their lovely website for appearances; you can also order this and their other recordings there.

(Rounder, 2004)

Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.

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