This combined DVD-CD offering of the documentary On Va Continuer! and the live album Asteur celebrates the Lost Bayou Ramblers’ 20th anniversary as a group. In 2016, director/cinematographer Bruno Doria was filming the Dockside Studio flood when he met the Ramblers fiddlin’ frontman Louis Michot, which led to Doria capturing various live performances and the recording of the album Kalenda. Doria was also present when Kalenda reached its zenith by winning a Grammy in 2018 and the band’s jubilant post- celebration.
Though the documentary seems like it’s a day in a life of the Lost Bayou Ramblers, it’s also a snapshot of contemporary Cajun culture holding on to its time-honored roots. There are segments with various instrument makers, most notably Louis’ brother Andre who painstakingly builds accordions for the sheer love of it. Another segment shows Louis and copious friends constructing an exterior bousillage wall made out of mud and Spanish moss, reminiscent of the homes built by Cajuns in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Though this is obviously a worthy promotional tool, its overarching message is not to sell another unit or concert ticket. Instead it’s the preservation and growth of the Cajun French language. Louis shares insightful thoughts such as “the language is a huge part of the rhythms of the music” and how “it’s the best possible vehicle for transmitting the language. I think there’s a chance we can revitalize it to where it will last many more generations,” he says. “It’s definitely a life’s work and the reason I do what I do.”
Asteur features well-received live performances from seven New Orleans area venues. Though it draws on several selections from Kalenda, there are another seven tunes (“Steh,” “New Iberia Haircut,” “Hwy 90”) never released by the Lost Bayou Ramblers. “Bosco Stomp” and “Côte Clair” sound closer to vintage Cajun music than “Freetown Crawl/Fighten’ ville Brawl” and “Kalenda”—those are considerably more untamed and unruly than their studio-produced counterparts. Given the hypnotic percussion, feedback, distortion, drones and far-out futuristic effects, by the time “Tune Up” and “Dans Les Pins” end, you feel like you’ve survived a physically- grueling, mind-altering ordeal.