Call Chuck Wentworth a sonic matchmaker of sorts. The Rhythm & Roots Festival honcho pegged it right when he arranged a swamp blues workshop featuring Mamou Playboys’ David Greely and Sam Broussard and noted Texas bluesman Johnny Nicholas. The trio hit it off; the chemistry was right and eventually this loose song cycle recording was birthed. While Greely and Broussard need no introduction to Cajun music devotees, Nicholas compliments them well with his credentials, which includes a stint in Asleep at the Wheel and visits to Basile, Louisiana in the late ’70s and early ’80s to jam with Cajun legends Nathan Abshire and Dewey Balfa.
The resultant dozen tracks are a comfortable amalgamation of artistry, sensibilities and styles where the personality of each shines through the creative, collaborative arrangements. Nicholas’ songcraft straddles eloquent, graceful Americana (“Fresh Air”), harmonica-wailing delta blues (“Standin’ in the Rain”) and autobiographical road cruisers “Big Basile,” the latter of which describes a community Mardi Gras celebration. While Broussard’s creations are complex, jazz-tinged (“Possessed”) and lyrically deep (“First Stoplight”); Greely offers a cerebral alternative to traditional, accordion-centric Cajun music. Largely due to Broussard’s Travis-picking on a rare guitar-banjo hybrid, Greely’s instrumental “La Bleue” feels like a minor-key Appalachian hoedown. The harmonica-propelled interpretation of Varise Connor’s “Mazurka” isn’t that far off the mark since, at times, Cajun music was led by a harmonica. Nicholas’ rendition of Abshire’s “Popcorn Blues” is equally fitting given his history and would undoubtedly make the former Earthly dumpmiester proud. Given all this, what’s not to like?