Various artists’ Joyeux Noël, Bon Chrismeusse: A Holiday EP From South Louisiana

cover artAs someone who’s not a fan of much Christmas music, I have to say this Christmas record is just about perfect. How’s that? Well, it’s short, so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s music from south Louisiana, Cajun and Zydeco mostly, by some of the leading young names in those genres. And it’s full of top-notch musicians including a solid house band, with superb production and engineering.
This six-track EP puts a Cajun and Creole spin on some Christmas classics and tosses in some South Louisiana originals with a holiday theme, all done up in Acadian French with mostly traditional instruments. Plus it’s a nifty introduction to some acts that are new to me, mostly young musicians who are carrying on the traditions of their grandparents and making them their own.
The house band features Chas Justus (Red Stick Ramblers, The Revelers), guitarist and producer of the project, with bassist Trey Boudreaux, drummer Matt Meyer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Stafford, who engineered.
The program includes three familiar American Christmas standards. There’s a bouncy, swinging take on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (“J’ai vu Mam après becquer Papa Noël”) by the Daiquiri Queens, featuring the sugary harmonies of guitarists and singers Jamie Lynn Fontenot and Miriam McCracken; the rocking Zydeco one-step version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (“Papa Nwèl ap vini o vilaj”) with vocals and accordion by Corey Porche and rub board by Paul “Bird” Edwards; and the croony, swoony harmonies of Megan Brown Constantin and Kelli Jones of the Lafayette trio T’Monde rendering “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (“Je reviens chez nous pour Chrismeusse”) as a sweet country swing ballad complete with pedal steel, Telecaster and fiddle.
The disc kicks off with the bopping two-step “All I Want For Christmas, Dear, Is You,” a novel take on an old Buck Williams song, fronted by the Old-Fashioned Aces, lead vocal by Blake Miller and accordion and harmony vocals by Amelia Biere.

My favorite, if I have to pick one, is the deep bluesy groove of Courtney Granger’s “Joyeux Noel, catin,” a Cajun country “Merry Christmas, Baby” complete with some hot guitar and a soulful horn section. Although, dang, that Daiquiri Queens take on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is pretty sweet!
Things wrap up on a different note, with the New Orleans-based Sweet Crude providing an electro-indie pop song called “Last Christmas.” Just to show they aren’t *all* making acoustic Cajun and Zydeo music down there.
We can all use a bit of good times as we usher out this awful year of 2020, and I personally welcome some high quality holiday music that’s a change from the schmaltzy classics we’re used to. Kudos to
Lafayette Economic Development Authority, the Acadiana Center for the Arts, and the West Baton Rouge Museum and La Fondation Louisiane for backing this project. You can find the album only on Bandcamp. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

(self-released, 2020)

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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