Though Cajunman marks Calvin Lavergne’s full-length debut, it’s really Cajunman 2.0. A five-song EP consisting of three swamp poppers and two Cajun French originals was briefly released in 2017, before producer/pianist Rick Lagneaux pulled it from the market to re-position Lavergne into the regional French demographic. Smart move, since the septuagenarian Lavergne is among the last of the native French speakers and writes material that other Cajuns can relate to and find humorous, such as “Boire La Biѐre.” He annunciates extremely well and some people, like fellow musician Fred Charlie, have cited him as an example to developing vocalists.
A version of the bolting title track (the only song here sung in English) remains the album’s centerpiece, where Lavergne proudly extols the virtues of his culture. The other nine French-sung tunes follow related themes of dancing, fishing, raising hell and love from various perspectives. The arrangements aren’t necessarily predicated on the proverbial accordion-fiddle tandem, though the fiery two-stepper, “Un Cajun S’amuse,” is propelled by both. Instead, Lagneaux crafted brilliant arrangements that vary between fiddle-driven Cajun Country (“Elle Et Moi”), tumbling zydecajun (“Un Homme Chanceux”) and even dreamy swamp pop (“S’il Vous Plait”). Indeed the arrangements are impressive and a few are enhanced by the pro-sounding background vocals.
“Un Coeur Cassé” is undoubtedly the most emotional track, one that’s sentimentally reminiscent of Eddy Arnold’s blockbuster “Make the World Go Away.” But instead of the grandiose performance, Lavergne projects soft sorrow as if he were crawling out from the carnage of an amorous catastrophe. In Lavergne’s case, authenticity rules over robust pipes.