It is hard to believe, but there was a time less than twenty years ago when Cajun tradition was an obscure, almost mythical, part of the American cultural landscape, something not understood, accepted, or even known with certainty to exist by most of the country. A few disparate and relatively small segments of the population were familiar with Cajun music, but it had not entered the consciousness of America as a whole. That all changed in the mid 1980s, when a group of musicians with the broadest sense of the international musical environment and a deep pride in their own confidently nurtured roots transformed Cajun music into a major cultural resource for the entire nation. Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, beginning with the powerful Rounder releases in the 1980s from which much of the music on this CD is drawn, were the first to take their relatively small and endangered culture to mainstream America, forging a bridge which has since remained crowded with heavy traffic going both directions.
Contrary to some predictions, the music has not proved to be a fad but has instead settled into a permanent place in the national awareness. BeauSoleil, more than any other group, brought it to that place of permanency by combining the soulfulness and passion they learned from previous generations with natural musical talent and a desire to express themselves on their own terms. They exhibited a deeply rooted but fresh understanding of their culture and never lost sight of one of its most fundamental goals to hit 'em with all you've got all the time; to play with complete abandon whether sitting on the front porch or performing on stage, as BeauSoleil was soon to do, for more than forty-million TV viewers during the Super Bowl.
BeauSoleil seemed eager to lead the listener on a journey away from the boredom of commercial music not necessarily away from the rocking origins on which popular American music is founded, but away from the manufactured pop that had inundated every shopping center in the country. When the BeauSoleil recordings presented on this disc met a large audience, success was instant. To the general American public, their music represented something fresh but grounded in old ways of life. The sounds were both familiar, through a collective memory of tradition, and mysteriously exotic. They represented something otherworldly, yet were, undeniably, a product of the American cultural melting pot that has shaped us all.
BeauSoleil will always be viewed as the spearhead of a movement that brought Cajun culture to the world. They also brought international respect home with them. The recordings on this CD have not only shaped the world's vision of Louisiana but also Louisiana's vision of itself. Many younger players today are using the musical vocabulary created by Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil to express their own identities. Chances are, if you are listening to this music somewhere outside of Louisiana, you can thank BeauSoleil for creating the bridge that allowed you to find not only this disc, but also this genre and this tradition. If you are listening within Louisiana, you can thank them for crossing another kind of bridge... that between the older generation and the younger. Whatever the case, whether you hear the past, the present, or the future in this music, you can't deny the spirit of it. In the end, as it is with most of the art that has a lasting place in our lives, that spirit transcends definition by anything other than the music itself.
- Dirk Powell