Cedric Watson helped make the Pine Leaf Boys stars in the emerging Cajun/Creole “new wave,” recording a CD with the band, Blues de Musicien, which was quickly nominated for a Grammy award. Following that, Watson recorded three of his own Grammy-nominated CDs for Valcour Records (Cedric Watson, L’Esprit Creole and Live at the Blue Moon), promoting his three-pronged mission of emphasizing zydeco’s roots in la-la music; representing Louisiana’s role in the evolution of Creole music across the New World Caribbean Basin; and creating a progressive mix of rhythms, traditions, and innovation that would provide the maximum opportunity for self-expression. With the self-produced and self-released Le Soleil Est Levé (The Sun Is Up), Watson has created a mature representation of both his musical vision and the development of his musical talent.
In some ways a follow-up to the more light-hearted L’Esprit Creole— the first fully realized statement of Watson’s artistic and musical vision—Le Soleil Est Levé offers listeners a more deeply rooted, richly textured, and musically accomplished version of a musical style that is well on its way to becoming a genre unto itself. You can easily hear it all in “La Danse Kalinda,” a traditional tune that has acquired a clearly Caribbean lilt driven by a conventional drum kit and elastic electric guitar chording by Feufollet’s Chris Stafford. Dominating the celebration of popular dance music is Watson’s broadly harmonic accordion lead (he plays a smaller, double-row model popular in island culture), lightly embellished toward the tune’s end with upper-register clarinet lacing by Lance Boston.
“La Danse Kalinda” sets the tone for the entire album, which includes a full array of original and newly arranged traditional compositions that run the gamut from the rocking zydeco R&B of “Les Blues Creoles” to the traditional Cajun waltz elegance of “T’Est Petite.” Included in that mix are Afro-Caribbean elements of traditional celebratory rhythms from Haiti, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic joining the more-modern sounds of upbeat reggae on “Tu Vas Jamais Me Comprendre.” There’s even some down-and-dirty blues on “I’ll Live ‘Til I Die,” an innovative arrangement that blends a Mississippi Delta treatment with a cascading string backdrop played on the North African kora.
The deep understanding of rhythmic kinship and southern Louisiana cultural expression is impressive throughout as Watson, still in his late 20s, fully explicates his uniquely African-American brand of rock ’n’ roll-powered Louisiana Creole music. With this new release and his recent signing by the legendary folk-revival booking agency Folklore Productions, Cedric Watson has completed his journey to center stage in the burgeoning 21st-Century progressive Cajun/Creole revival.