Though he’s not a household name in today’s contemporary scene, through the years Creole accordionist/septuagenarian Nolton Semien has had a place in Louisiana French music. He’s versatile at playing Creole la-la, Cajun and zydeco with equal aplomb, and his Midnight Riders usually featured a fiddler, like Calvin Carrière, in the lineup. This intimate home recording—spearheaded by musician Joe Hall—not only showcases one of the last practitioners of his kind, but also emphasizes how Semien still performs at a high level. He’s more of a quiet player than an aggressive one, is fairly ornamented and is simultaneously rhythmically solid. There’s a certain prettiness to his playing (“La Fille La Veuve,” “The Midnight Playboy Special”) that requires attentive listening to savor its intricacies. He’s careful not to play a tune that sounds like its predecessor, hence resulting in a variety of subtly shifting textures.
Additionally, Semien sings in an achy, plaintive voice that’s classic Cajun in a historic sense (think Adam Hebert). The song selection isn’t the typical standards fare but has novel choices sprinkled throughout, like “La Fille La Veuve,” a rarely recorded song since Andrew Cormier cut it in 1958. The swinging title track is not the Clifton Chenier staple per se but actually the Belton Richard version. Accompanying Semien is fiddler Mitch Reed who adds plenty of gorgeous moments of his own while D’Jalma Garnier (guitar) and Carol Palms (acoustic bass) anchor down a fat bottom end. From the sounds of it, Semien still has plenty to draw from the well.