Spent Sunday morning driving between Charlestown Beach and Brooklyn, and as the Mrs and I passed Ninigret Park, we tipped a hat to Chuck Wentworth’s hard work, the unstoppable thrust of tradition, and the power of regional music while reminding ourselves to try and catch the Pine Leaf Boys in the Dance Tent at this year’s edition of the Rhythm & Roots Festival. The acclaimed Cajun outfit has been rolling for almost 15 years now and Wentworth’s annual roots gathering has hosted ’em a few times previously. As a working band, they grow and grow, these days incorporating a few elements of blues and rock ‘n’ roll into their blast of fiddle and accordion tunes. On the box in the car as we barreled down Route 1A was “Chez Moreau,” one of the Louisiana outfit’s earlier tunes, sung in French and knocked out with the animation of newcomers trying to make a dent. By the time the mixed tape petered out, we’d made it to “Werewolf Two-Step” from a more recent album. It’s not hard to describe: imagine Evan Johns romping through the swamp on a full-moon Halloween night. Like their older brothers Beausoleil (who play on Saturday and Sunday at the 2019 edition of the Fest), they keep one foot in the bayou while opening the music up to embrace some more modern touches. And swing is part of the plan. They get a good bounce going on “Whiskey C’Est Mon Ami.” It’s a tough job to follow Steve Riley and Chubby Carrier on a stage where keeping dancers at a fever pitch is the job at hand, but grace blends with power when the Pine Leaf gents get going.
Pros know that the Rhythm & Roots kickoff afternoon usually boasts a certain je ne sais quoi (that’s pidgin cajun, y’all) . The optimistic vibe of arrival is in the air. Old pals pop through the gate. The whole place is welcoming. So claim that vacay day you deserve and claim your Friday. The Travelin’ McCoury’s will be rollin through the Dead’s “Cumberland Blues,” the Pine Leaf Boys will be turning Ninigret Park into Eunice North, David Greely, Courtney Granger and Steve Riley will be tipping the hat to Dewey Balfa, and Chubby Carrier will be dropping his very strong chank-a-chank science. Has it really be 365 days since last we danced?
August 30-Sept 1 – Charlestown, Rhode Island