Rewind: BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Gitane Cajun (Vanguard Records)

Michael Doucet hits REWIND to talk about one of his favorite records, 2004’s Gitane Cajun, its three co-producers, Doucet, brother David Doucet and pianist David Egan, and their eclectic song selection.

“There is a picture of me in the booklet from the 1979 Mamou Mardi Gras. The Cajun gypsy thing is not a new deal for me because there were gypsies here in Southwest Louisiana.

They had wagons. And basically the musicians were like gypsies. They would move from different areas and bring the news. They were like the newspaper. It was like the old tradition of the troubadours in France. That is a very poignant thing. I mean, we were sent here and deported with nothing, so we were definitely gypsies. But once we got here, we decided to stay on this land but we can still live like gypsies [chuckles].

We ate our way through it [the recording], I tell you what. We actually ate more than we played.

It was in the old days when you actually had a budget, not a big budget but a decent-sized budget. I don’t take [recording sessions] that seriously because I’ve always said ‘Oh, we can always do another one.’ You go in [the studio] for less than a week and that is what you are feeling that week.

It is not that you are going to feel that way the week after. It’s just at that moment and that’s why I say whatever you can do to feel good and be a group—make it a group effort in that short time—then you are stating something. To do that, you have to feel good, eat well and have fun. And that is what we did [laughs].

There was hardly any overdubbing. David [Doucet] overdubs because he plays rhythm and then he plays lead. But most of my vocals were live vocals. I wanted David [Doucet] to have more voice in this thing and bring out acoustic kind of things because when we did the record [Cajunization] before that, Charles Sawtelle was the producer and I really liked the sound of it.

I wanted David to be part of the mixing. And David Egan, I needed somebody else with different ears. I’ve known Egan a long time before people picked up his songs. I think he had just gone through his first bout of cancer so he needed a lift. It was interesting to have a piano on some of that stuff because we rarely have piano unless it’s Steve Conn. [Egan] had good ideas and it was great having him in the studio.

I was fooling around with Dennis’ song “Me and Dennis McGee” and came up with that. It was a tribute to Dennis to show his bowing style but actually it’s a whole different progression. And you know the name is just funny. It’s a take-off of “Me and Bobby McGee” by Kris Kristofferson who played with Dennis’ son Gerry for a long time. That was his lead guitar player.

When [Kris] played in Louisiana in the ’70s and ’80s, he would invite Dennis and Sady to go play with him. And Dennis loved it because it was like the most money he had ever made. He must have given him $500 apiece.

“Soleil Brille”: that’s the rays of the sun. Your life is just beautiful and the sun is always there. You just have to look at it, no matter if there are clouds or if it is raining kind of thing.

I wrote “Windhorse Eyes” while I was in the middle of this retreat and it just came to me. I just love the musical progressions. I played guitar on that one too. It was an odd song. It’s not a Cajun song. It’s one of mine. I mean, I write a lot of different songs and I just figured why not put it on that one? It doesn’t have to be Cajun. We’re Cajun, but it doesn’t mean that we have to play Cajun music all the time.

“Lena Mae” skips a beat every couple of beats. Every instrument takes a solo on a different measure. So it’s kind of funky. We really did it close to how Lawrence [Walker] recorded it. My dad brought me out to Tee Maurice Racetrack on a Sunday once to hear him. What I was doing, I was opening the beers. I don’t know if you remember this but before beer cans had pull tabs, they had this machine where you put the beer in it and pressed it down.

It had knives and it cut two holes in the top. He must have asked me for a beer because I can remember him bending low and saying in French ‘Thank you for the beer.’”