By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Maria McKee knows something about that. McKee, who made a name with roots rockers Lone Justice and has gone on to pursue an ambitious pop-rock vision, contributes to two old ballads, "Ma Blonde Est Partie" ("My Blonde Left") and "Tout un Beau Soir en Me Promenant" ("On a Beautiful Evening While Out Walking"). "My love of Cajun music goes back to those recordings, which I've had for a long time," McKee says. "My family is from the same region that the Cajuns migrated from, Breton, and that song 'Tout un Beau Soir' came from that area. It's just a drinking song. A man goes out into the woods and meets a shepherd girl, and they have a drink together."
For her part, McKee, one of the most seductive and skilled singers of her generation, sounds right at home with the curling inflections of Cajun French. "That's thanks to Ann," McKee says. "She worked really hard on the pronunciation. I grew up speaking French, but the Cajun pronunciation is very different." Evangeline Made may feature a trophy shelf of rock and country celebrities -- including Linda Ronstadt, Lowe, Richard and Linda Thompson, Patty Griffin and John Fogerty -- but the 14 songs are threaded together by the Cajun dialect (all the songs are sung in French), the grooving bellows of Marc Savoy's accordion, Ann's unremitting rhythm guitar and lots of boiling-point fiddling. The sound is mostly spare and vigorous, with flashes of electric guitar here and there and an emphasis on voices that find melodic possibilities in the language of the Acadians.
"I didn't want it to sound like it was recorded in a library," Savoy says. "I wanted it to be vibrant and alive today and yet not change it so much that it isn't recognizable as Cajun music. I'm a little concerned about the music today. There's a lot going on, a lot of young bands, but there's a bit of a trend to Americanize it. They're going to kill it if they don't watch out. Zydeco, the black French music, has gotten to be very simplified and almost nursery-rhymed. Some of the artists are really going Nashville, but there's also the preservationists who are still doing gorgeous traditional music, reviving it. It seems sometimes that everybody is trying to homogenize things. But why? It's fun to hear new ideas, but you don't want to change the music into a single blend. If everywhere you went things sounded the same, it would be sad."