Monday, March 16, 2015

A New Swamp Fire

A New Swamp Fire
The Oxford American
March 15, 2015

Since their inception more than a decade ago as a band of teenage musical wunderkinds, Feufollet has been leading a revival in Cajun music and bringing the traditional tunes of Acadiana to a wider audience. Their last album, En Coulouers (2010), earned a Grammy nomination and a nod from Elvis Costello, who called it “the most beautifully melodic album I’ve heard all year.”

In the years since, the members of Feufollet—which means “swamp fire”—have been pursuing diverse musical careers and retooling the band after the departure of former lead singer Anna Laura Edmiston, who ran off to join the circus, literally. (Edmiston left the group under amicable terms in 2012 to tour with Cavalia: Odysseo, a theatrical circus created by one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil.)

Next week, Feufollet will release Two Universes, their first album in five years. The album debuts vocalist and fiddler Kelli Jones-Savoy, as well as a strikingly different sound: less accordion and more honky-tonk. It signals a radical departure from the Cajun music tradition on which Feufollet built their identity and is the first of their albums not sung entirely in French. Although Jones-Savoy displays a brilliant bilingualism, her roots are in the old-time music of North Carolina, and this translates into her songwriting.

And Two Universes is a showcase for songwriting. Feufollet’s earlier albums relied heavily on the band’s arrangements of traditional Louisiana tunes, while this album features their own songs almost exclusively. For those of us who have enjoyed their music without ever comprehending a word of the French, it is a pleasure to finally be able to appreciate their talents as lyricists, as in the duet “Red Light,” where Jones-Savoy and Feufollet co-founder and frontman Chris Stafford trade off harmony and opposing viewpoints:

I saw an end, but you saw a start
I declared it over, thought I had played it smart
But you built a castle from all that fell apart
I saw an end, but you saw a start

I was curious about the story behind this new project, so last month I spoke by phone with Jones-Savoy and Stafford. I caught them at Stafford’s music studio in Lafayette, getting ready for a spring tour.

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