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BeauSoleil Trio: Doucet, Doucet, & Reed

Cajun
Lafayette, Louisiana

BeauSoleil Trio: Doucet, Doucet, and ReedBeauSoleil translates as “beautiful sunshine.” It’s also the name of the 18th-century Acadian rebel leader, Beausoleil Broussard, for whom “the most famous Cajun band in the world” is named. Although BeauSoleil has performed in different configurations since its founding 41 years ago, it began as an acoustic trio. At this year’s festival, BeauSoleil’s Michael Doucet, David Doucet and Mitchell Reed offer up glorious twin fiddle and fiddle-accordion pairings with acoustic guitar, beloved sounds from the heart of Cajun tradition. The BeauSoleil Trio pays homage to past Cajun masters with delightful stories of the musicians from whom they learned and with beautiful tunes performed with freshness, immediacy, and unmatched virtuosity.

Louisiana’s Cajuns descend from the French-speaking Acadians who settled in Nova Scotia in 1604, only to be uprooted in 1755 by the British, who forced them south to the bayous and prairies of southwest Louisiana. In this refuge, a distinctive Cajun culture evolved, blending older French and Acadian music with the sounds of their new neighbors: Native Americans, Spanish, Germans, and French Creoles of African descent. Traditionally, the fiddle was the central instrument, to be joined by the accordion in the late 19th century. In the 20th century came influences from country and western, as well as blues, eventually creating the music emblematic of Cajun culture today.

BeauSoleil’s music reflects the vision of Michael Doucet, who has spent much of his life delving into the origins of Cajun music. Early in his career he studied with every living Cajun legend he could find, including master fiddlers like Dennis McGee and Canray Fontenot. For his scholarship and contributions to Cajun culture, Doucet was honored with a National Heritage Fellowship in 2005, the highest honor given to traditional artists in the United States.

Joining Michael Doucet are two of his longtime BeauSoleil bandmates: fiddler Mitch Reed, a master Cajun musician and instructor who has been performing with some of the greatest names in Cajun music since he was a teenager; and Michael’s brother, David Doucet, a soulful singer and an exceptional guitarist who is credited with making the acoustic guitar central to modern Cajun music. Together they have been working on a forthcoming acoustic trio CD, due out later in 2016.

As a band, BeauSoleil was the first Cajun band to win a Grammy® Award, in 1998 (they have since added a second), and in 2011 they were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. They have performed all over the globe, and represented Cajun music in popular venues like HBO’s Treme and NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion—whose Garrison Keillor rightly calls BeauSoleil “the best Cajun band in the world.”