Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, 4/19/13
By GREG HAYMES
TROY – On Friday evening before the storm front rolled in, it was a warm, humid evening – kind of like springtime in Louisiana. And it was the perfect meteorological setting for the swamp-soaked sounds that Cedric Watson and his band Bijou Creole were churning out at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.
The multiple Grammy nominee held sway over the packed house at the re-purposed church as though it were his calling – easily cajoling the crowd (both young and old) to dance in the aisles with both grace and abandon. Those who needed more space to execute their dance moves relocated to the back room where they couldn’t actually see the band, but they could still hear their infectious beat just fine, and there was plenty of room for the dancers to cut their more expansive dance steps to the intoxicating Cajun and zydeco music.
Watson is a triple-threat – accordionist, fiddler and singer – and he delivered on all three fronts during a pair of delicious, 50-minute sets on Friday.
He also deftly melded swamp country tradition with the blend of contemporary rap.
He sang almost exclusively in French, but if you didn’t speak the language, it really didn’t matter. Oh sure, you may have missed some subtleties here and there, but it was really all about the groove. And it was a sheer delight throughout the evening, shifting from Cajun two-steps to zydeco waltzes to bayou-saturated rhythm and blues.
Watson and his band are no strangers to the Capital Region having played at both the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and the Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival last year. This time around, however, the new rhythm section of Casual-T on drums and Tyler Sonnier on bass kept the beat locked down on nuggets like the full-scale rave-up of “Cochon De Lait” and the gospelesque call-and-response of “Le Sud de la Louisiane.” Kyle Gambino wailed on both alto and tenor saxophones, often doubling the lines of Watson’s button accordion to evoke a full horn section sound. And Desiree Champagne kept it all buzzing with those slinky, undeniable counter-rhythms on her frottoir, a strap-on variation on the washboard that was invented by the late zydeco king Clifton Chenier.
In the middle of their second set, Watson and Champagne offered a pair of dazzling fiddle-and-frottoir duets, including the heart-breaking jailhouse lament “Les Barres de la Prison.” The pieces were intended to illustrate the roots of Louisiana music, but the results took on a broader scope – sometimes less is indeed more. It’s quite possible that the duo could have carried the entire concert on their own.
And, yes, during the evening Watson paid tribute to Chenier, as well as zydeco great Boozoo Chavis, closing the night with a medley of three Boozoo classics as well as a number of traditional zydeco gems. But it’s a testament to passing the zydeco music traditional down the the next generations that Watson- just 30 years old – often punctuated his traditional two-steps with the classic hip-hop exhortation,”Somebody scream!”
And did they ever scream…
Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: The Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 6th Avenue, Troy
Musical highlights: The rousing “Cochon De Lait” and the accordion/frottioir breakdown at the end of “A Kiss Ain’t a Contract”
Length: Two 50-minute sets
The crowd: Jam-packed and dancing