The Babineaux Sisters, Quoi Ca Dit (Independent)

The Babineaux Sisters, Quoi Ca Dit, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, July 2014

If you’re of the opinion that young women in their early adolescence are incapable of conjuring up original, serious and profound Cajun music, then take one listen to the Babineaux Sisters’ Quoi Ca Dit and prepare to change your mind. The title tells the whole story—borrowed from an antique version of Cajun French, it’s a common greeting along the lines of “How you doin’?” or, in French French, “Ca va?” (“How’s it going?”).

The Babineaux sisters, Grace, 15, and Julie, 13, learned it from their grandfather who grew up in an isolated community along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast near Lafayette. The language that was spoken there is a precursor to modern Cajun French, essentially a pre-modern vernacular preserved orally. Literally, “Quoi ca dit” translates as something like “What do you say?” and represents a common greeting in that antique culture.

The Babineaux girls decided to write this EP-length CD in the old vernacular as an act of preservation and intend this release as a kind of greeting to listeners who may seldom listen to any kind of Cajun music as well as those who know them as a precocious duo who’ve been performing standard “cute” Cajun music around the state for a couple of years now.

Discerning listeners first made their acquaintance on 2012’s En Francais, Volume Two, a compilation of Frenchified American pop songs sponsored by Bayou Teche Brewery and produced the Lost Bayou Rambler’s Louis Michot. The Babineaux Sisters took pride of place, opening that CD with a stunning, antique French translation of Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” powerful enough even casual listeners had to sit up and take notice.

Now the sisters are back with a simply arranged, largely acoustic collection of heritage material and original compositions made to sound old, the whole a musical statement guaranteed to bring pleasure to both casual listeners of all kinds or a strictly Cajun audience, anyone interested in lush fiddle and acoustic guitar sounds, confidently deployed and capably rendered. It also serves, according to Grace Babineaux, as “an introduction to what Julie and I are becoming.”

The opening track uses the CD’s title phrase in the declarative (“What you say is not what you want”) with English-only verses preaching a moral lesson: “You say you want fame and fortune, but do you know the price; you say you want all the luck in world, go ahead and roll the dice.” It’s a rocking two-stepper in a similar vein to the CD’s next-to-last track “Moi Est Gone” (‘I Am Gone”) both with a contemporary feel.

In between, two originals, “Inez” and “Taille ta Robe” (“Take that Dress”), and two pieces taken from much older sources, “Arc en Ciel” (“Rainbow”) and “Repose” (“Rest”), serve as occasions for displaying the Babineaux’s combined fiddle, vocal, and acoustic guitar skills, while “Trois Capitaines” (“Three Captains”), taken from a collection of women’s home songs, is given an even simpler vocal-and-guitar-only treatment.

The CD’s final track, “Lovers’ Waltz” by Jay and Molly Ungar, closes the sequence on a solely instrumental note, conveying the simple beauty that pervades this release and promises more wonderful things to come from the Babineaux Sisters.