I have a picture in my mind. It’s George Thomas standing next to Michael Doucet on the old wooden stage at one of the early Cajun & Bluegrass Festivals at Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag. The former is a New England-based music expert and radio host, and the latter is the longtime leader of forever-esteemed BeauSoleil. Can’t say why, but whenever I’ve seen the Cajun superheroes onstage during these last 30 years, I still picture GT up there introducing ’em. And there’s certainly been no lack of opportunities to catch Doucet’s outfit around here. The innovative traditionalists from Lafayette often include the Ocean State in their northern jaunts. But unless I’ve spaced out, it’s been a minute since they last shook the ground in RI. That makes their return to the 2019 Rhythm & Roots Festival a big deal. Their grooves seem to get deeper each year; so does the sophisticated blend of cosmopolitan rhythms incorporated by their Bayou-centric approach. Doesn’t matter if the graying fiddler is leading his crew through folk ditties like “Lula Don’t Go To The Bingo” or blues vamps like Bobby Charles’ “He’s Got All The Whiskey,” their robust playing is fueled by a blend of ancient and progressive perspectives, bending venerable themes to make room for plenty of wild solos and rhythmic explosions. Their mastery of dynamics involves an array of steadily shifting grooves built on subtly manipulated beats, and they have lots of ways to send a crowd to the moon. There’s not a way in the world you can stand in front of ‘em and not get your dance on.
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 vacation day you deserve and own the Friday experience. 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 asking “who stole the hot sauce.” Has it really be 365 days since last we danced?
August 30-Sept 1 – Charlestown, Rhode Island