A son of Lorraine in Acadia. A thirty-year-old dream realized in Lafayette! Yes, CharlÉlie Couture went to the heart of the Louisiana bayou to record his twentieth studio album. The raw, festive album wonderfully sums up the essence of the music he has been making for nearly four decades: an intense, profound, hot, sultry blues midway between mist and moonlight.
CharlÉlie, a multi-artist armed with a stony nasal voice, pen, brush and lens, has always been a storyteller. The New Yorker from Nancy, rock poet and musical painter has often built bridges between French and American culture. As he explains, “I was raised in an almost bilingual environment: my mother taught French in the USA and I talked to her in English in the kitchen. In a way, it’s my native language.”
So CharlÉlie’s aim was to find the ideal convergence between those two worlds – one that would be compatible with both – when he arrived in Louisiana (more specifically in Lafayette on the banks of the Vermilion River in the heart of the Cajun country, a city named for the French marquis of that name).
Accompanied by local virtuosi, CharlÉlie settled in at the famous Dockside Studio, the haunt of such illustrious names as Taj Mahal, B. B. King, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Accordion, mandolin, fiddle, washboard, harmonica (‘mouth music’), sax, trumpet and tuba all play their part in the album’s fourteen original songs, which were recorded in French and English in the local style: a mixture of zydeco and swamp rock, swing and country initially popularized by such guardians of the genre as Clifton Chénier, Rufus Thibodeaux and Zachary Richard. And naturally, local artist Zachary came by to add his voice to CharlÉlie’s on two tracks.
The fruits of these sessions coproduced by CharlÉlie and guitarist Karim Attoumane fully meet the challenge the artist set himself. They include frenzied rhythms – Déconner (Fool Around) to get the couch in an uproar, Debout dans la boue (Upright in the Mud) or mire without mishaps; amorous, exultantly despairing laments – Annie, the departed girlfriend, Baby Blue, from cashew to tattoo; epic road movies (30 years outside with its Dylanesque touch, Le danger sur la piste (The Danger on the Trail), a Sioux thriller; and moving ballads – Inspiritation, Demain les anges (Tomorrow the Angels) and especially Chanson sous-sol (Basement Song), which may remind certain listeners of a famous wingless plane.
Not to mention stories worthy of a Steinbeck, such as Les Pionniers [Une autre danse] (Pioneers [Another Dance]), dedicated to all the world’s migrants. The album ends with Mardigra, an instrumental in the silent-movie-music style, and a live joint venture with the Lost Bayou Ramblers: Maison Soleil Levant, a startling, frantic version of the traditional House of the Rising Sun fit to damn the jailbirds in any penitentiary.
“Et toute la nuit on dansera/ Jusqu’au matin quand le coq chantera” (“And all night we’ll dance / Until morning when the cock crows”) sings CharlÉlie in his ode to Lafayette, the city that gave the album its name. An ideal occasion to let the good times roll!
May 13, 2017 @ Club Bonafide – New York, NY
NEW CHARLELIE COUTURE ALBUM
Charlelie Couture is back with this unique album that explores Louisiana’s cajun country, where it was recorded. Charlelie recently played at the Festival International de la Louisiane in Lafayette, the for which the album is also named. ‘Lafayette’ is available April 29th.