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Cajun Pride

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Album Review

Among the ranks of great Cajun accordionists, Jo-El Sonnier stands tall. As a major purveyor of the traditional legacy of his culture, his records have won recognition with three Grammy nominations for Best Traditional Folk Album: with Cajun Life in 1984, Cajun Pride in 1997, and Cajun Blood in 1999. All of Sonnier's music speaks to the great pride that the Cajun people take in their culture. They have left countries to protect it, resisting oppressive attempts to interfere with their French language and religious practices. After fleeing first France and then Canada, the Acadian people settled in the wetlands of southwest Louisiana. Even in the land of the free, others were intolerant of Cajun folkways. They were persecuted and punished for them. They resisted and ultimately they prevailed. At last the world has come around to appreciating what the Cajun people have to offer, as their music, food, and joie de vivre are celebrated everywhere. So it is with a special feeling for the word that Jo-El Sonnier sings of Cajun Pride. Playing accordion and guitar on the album, Sonnier is joined by an array of fine musicians, including Michael Doucet and Tony Thibodeaux on fiddles, David Doucet on guitar, Junior Martin on steel guitar, David Egan on piano, Peter Schwartz on bass, and Danny Zeringue on drums. The play list on the CD reflects the Cajun reverence for tradition and love of dance, with old songs from the masters such as Nathan Abshire's signature tune, "Pine Grove Blues," and Lawrence Walker's "Midnight Waltz." There are plenty of traditional waltzes and two-steps, along with some tunes from the pen of Sonnier, including his "Jolie Fille." There is a fun-loving nod to the R&B genius of Chuck Berry: "Johnny B. Goode" goes Cajun in "Johnnie Fais Bien." The rest of the pieces are just great old Cajun favorites, the kind that young and old alike can dance to at the fais do do, proudly enjoying the cultural heritage that is uniquely their own.


Born: October 2, 1946 in Rayne, LA

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

There have been better-known figures than Jo-El Sonnier within the Cajun music tradition of Louisiana. And there have been Louisiana musicians, such as Doug Kershaw, who have taken simplified versions of Cajun music to Nashville and experienced greater success in the world of country music. But no one has moved as easily between Cajun and country music as Sonnier, and no one is as well respected as a bridge between musical traditions. A fixture of the traditional Cajun scene, Sonnier has also reached...
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