FRIDAY, APRIL 27—FAIS DO-DO STAGE, 11:15 A.M.
The future of Cajun music always looks bright, with the scads of young musicians constantly entering its ranks, but 27-year-old Kyle Huval has a different perspective. There are not always kids of every age coming up. “In my age group, 21 to 30, there were very few musicians who played [professionally],” Huval says. “If anybody wanted to hear French music, they called me.”
The Eunice native never set out to play strictly Cajun music at age 11, just music in general, since his parents listened to a wide variety at home. The only instruments his family had were a harmonica and an old Hohner accordion. So equipped with a Larry Miller instructional book, Huval proceeded to learn simple children’s tunes before diving headfirst into Cajun music, something his French-speaking grandmother listened to religiously.
Obviously he learned it well. Three years later the precocious 14-year-old was playing Fred’s Lounge in Mamou fronting his band the Dixie Club Ramblers. He later put the Ramblers aside for college, and then reactivated them after graduation in 2014.
Other than founding drummer Cody Lafleur, the rest of the lineup is completely different from the Ramblers’ first incarnation. Yet Huval still maintains the same blueprint, with accordion, drums, two fiddles, Joel Savoy and Mitch Schexnyder, no bass but a guitar played with choke chords by Jo Vidrine. Feufollet’s Chris Stafford came along later to play steel guitar.
Interestingly, the Dixie Club Ramblers’ sound is not typical of the Eunice-Lafayette area but one that’s heard a hundred miles away to the west. “If you listen to the CD [2017’s Straight Allons on Valcour Records], the closest influence you can find is Joe Bonsall,” Huval explains about the legendary Joe Bonsall and the Orange Playboys, who were popular during the ’60s and ’70s. “You’ll hear the one stroke on the guitar, no bass, steel guitar and two fiddles. That’s East Texas, man. A lot of the records my grandma listened to were either fiddle players or Joe Bonsall.” Huval adds other East Texans like Andrew Cormier and Rodney LeJeune to the list, but Bonsall remains his favorite.
“Our music is kind of wild and fast,” Huval explains, drawing comparisons to Bonsall. “We are such a different breed in my age [group]. It’s weird how generations of music can change like that.”
Though Huval attracts crowds of all ages, he also does well in drawing the younger set, something he attributes to his lively stage shows. “What I love about our style of music is our speed and energy,” Huval says. “If you watch us play onstage, you’ll notice how we all giggle and mess with each other. Joel and I are famous for teasing each other onstage. He does something and I try to imitate him and then he does something to imitate me.”