R.I.P. Belton Richard

There’s a Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke I’ve heard my dad tell many times: Old man Boudreaux passes away and one day he comes back as an angel to visit his pal Thibodeaux. He says to Thibodeaux, “Thib, I got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that heaven is just great- they got the best dancehalls with all the best old Cajun musicians playing every night- Iry, Lawrence Walker, Aldus- they play all the time.” Thibodeaux says “That’s awesome man! What’s the bad news?” and Boudreaux replies, “The bad news is, you’re scheduled to play the dance tomorrow night.” 

The bad news for us is that our friend Mr. Belton Richard is now on that rotating schedule at the big dancehall in the sky with all the other Cajun greats that we’ve lost. He became a legend in his own time and he’ll live on forever through his iconic songs and recordings which have influenced so many of us immensely.

A lot of you know that we recently produced a record called “Cajun Accordion Kings (and the Queen)” and we tried really hard to get Belton to be a part of it. I’ve known Belton for years but hadn’t been in touch with him recently when we were recording this project so my co-producer Steve Riley and I tracked down his current phone number and left him a few messages to try to set up a session with him at his house. Understandably, he never got back to us – there were two recent deaths in his family and we knew it just wasn’t a good time.

So I had all but given up hope when Jo Vidrine and I were recording/shooting the last session at Dirk Powell’s place back in February. I was telling Dirk that he was the last one we had left to do for the project and how we were so disappointed that we weren’t able to get Belton involved. Dirk suggested that we try one more time – he said, “Man just go get a six pack of beer and some boudin and show up at his house and I bet he’ll do it! But bring an accordion because last time I saw him at the festival he had to borrow my accordion because he hadn’t brought one!”

Thus encouraged, I called my buddy Todd Ortego at KBON to see if he knew where Belton’s house was. He said “I’ve only been there once but go like you’re going to Cankton and before you get into town take a right on a blacktop road and go down about a mile and his house is on the right.” So Jo and I took off in my car with one of Dirk’s accordions and we headed towards Cankton, stopping to pick up what I knew to be Belton’s beer of choice, Michelob Ultra, and a couple pounds of boudin from Billy’s along the way.

This was a wild hare chase if ever there was one – we had no idea where we were going and we had no idea if Belton would even be there if we found his house, much less what kind of shape he’d be in and if he’d agree to record a song for us. But we were determined, so headed north to Cankton and as we got close to town I chose a random “black top” and turned right. Just as we started questioning ourselves heading down this completely random road, almost magically, this old man in overalls with a sunburst Gibson Les Paul over his shoulder appeared exiting a beat up tin shed in the middle of a pasture in front of a house. Jo and I looked at each other and stopped the car immediately. “This guy has to know where Belton is!” Jo said. So we hollered at him across the ditch, “Hey do you know where Belton Richard lives?!” The old guy turned around with his unplugged electric guitar and said, “Accordion man? You see those trash cans down there? Take a right right there and that’s his house.” Both totally amazed that we had somehow ended up on the right road and found this guitar-slinging faun in a field who knew where we needed to go, Jo and I drove into Belton’s driveway. Unfortunately, right then my phone rang and it was Todd calling to tel me that Belton had just moved to Broussard and wasn’t doing well enough to record anyway. So we drank the beer and ate the boudin and decided we’d have to include him on Volume 2.

Photo by flickr user cajunzydecophotos

Photo by flickr user cajunzydecophotos

Today, sitting in Portland Oregon getting ready to play a Cajun dance I really regret that this story doesn’t end with Jo and I sitting under the carport drinking beer and eating boudin with the legendary Belton Richard, and I regret that I won’t be around to attend the funeral as he’s laid to rest. However, I’ll always remember this little adventure and the few times I got to hang out with him, and tonight when we get onstage and get going, I hope Belton will hear his songs and look down with a smile knowing that we tried to find him that day and that he might not be with us any longer, but Belton Richard, the Legend, lives on!

Rest in peace, Belton Richard. Enjoy le paradis de musicien!

- Joel Savoy

Cajun Accordion Kings (and the Queen)

Honoring the masters that have paved the way

We are excited to share our latest endeavor with you all! Cajun Accordion Kings (and the Queen) is a collection of songs performed on solo accordion by of 16 the Cajun accordion masters across south Louisiana.

All my life I have loved the sound of the Cajun accordion by itself- it's a band in a box and I've wanted to do this project for years. So when my cousin Steve Riley called me up to tell me about the Cajun Accordion Heroes show he was organizing at the Liberty Theater on March 11, I jumped at the opportunity and asked Steve to coproduce this project with me.

I would first of all like to say thanks to all of these players who took time to be a part of this- this project is very special to me and each of you has contributed a unique and beautiful performance. I would also like to say that this is not the definitive list of the best Cajun accordion players. Let's call it Volume 1, because there are so many great players in the older generation alone that we were not able to include, such as Belton Richard, Nolan Cormier, Reggie Matte, Andrew Cormier, Jimmy Thibodeaux and more. So there's a good chance this project is "to be continued." We haven't even touched on the great Creole and Zydeco players yet!

I'd also like to say that this is basically a collection of modern field recordings. Each track was recorded and filmed live in a full take with no editing, in numerous non-studio environments. Some of the players also chose to sing, but you will notice the the vocal is generally low in the mix because I really wanted to showcase the accordion so i tasked the mic pair to the instrument alone. When you listen to these tracks or watch these videos, you will hear 16 distinctly unique styles. Capturing each performance was a beautiful experience forphotographer/videographer Jo Vidrine and I and I am proud to share this with you from all of us at Valcour Records.

Listen to Jimmy Breaux's rock solid timing, and Marc Savoy's style and grace, Steve Riley's and Jason Frey's precision and speed. There's Jo-El Sonniers sweet dedication to his mother after a heartfelt performance and Paul Daigle's rhythmic ferocity. Listen to Wayne Toups hammering out an old favorite at max volume, or to Ray Abshire delicately delivering the blues. This is definitely NOT a bunch of "chank a chank."

And check out the videos below, filmed by Jo Vidrine.

Enjoy, my friends!
-Joel Savoy

Louisiana Strong

A message from Valcour Co-founder Joel Savoy:

Well school’s back in session and the long hot Louisiana summer is drawing to an end. With all the rain we’ve been getting and the devastating floods, I think everyone is anticipating more than usual that first fall breeze that tells us that another season of festivals is upon us and the leaves will soon be crunching under our feet. We are doing our best in Louisiana to move on to the next phase, and we are lucky we have a lot to look forward to. Here in Eunice, Valcour Records headquarters is bustling with lots of new projects. Our studios have been busy with some of the finest musicians in the area all year long and it’s nearly time to share some of their work with y’all, including Courtney Granger’s highly-anticipated debut Country album (recorded and produced by Dirk Powell, also available in vinyl), an epic new record from the ever-creative Bonsoir, Catin, and a special Christmas surprise. We’ve also got some projects just getting started with some new faces on the scene in Acadiana and a tribute to one of our local heroes we lost last year, so be sure to sign up for the mailing list so you can be the first to hear all this stuff!

Here at Valcour, our mission is to share the music we love from Acadiana with the rest of the world. As musicians ourselves we’ve worked hard over these last 11 years to develop and refine a release model that is artist-centric and we’re doing our best to benefit our local artists on an international level because we believe that what we have down here could do the world some good. Am I right?!

However, we are a small company and we can only devote so much of our time to our passion of music. I wish it were possible for us to release all of the great albums that come out of this area – maybe one day we will be able to do that – but for now we can only handle a few releases a year at best. This season our babies were I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country – our four-disc boxed set featuring 24 new versions of songs recorded in South Louisiana in 1934 by Alan Lomax – and T’Monde’s Yesterday’s Gone, Drew, Kelli and Megan’s second album together leaving nothing to be desired from this powerful Cajun trio.

But there were a lot of other great releases this year- it’s hard to even remember them all! Let’s see, Wayne Toups put out a fantastic new album this year featuring his hit single A Good One. Roddie Romero and the Hub City Allstars killed it with their huge-sounding Gulf Stream. The Viatones reminded us o f what Rock’n’Roll is supposed to sound like with their eponymous debut release. And Dr. Barry Jean Ancelet and the inimitable Sam Broussard collaborated with poetry and music on their Broken Promised Land, which I have been eagerly awaiting since I first heard the demos several years ago! Also, young Forest Huval debuted  with another eponymous album featuring Kyle Hebert on fiddle which has some really great tunes that the late Al Berard loved to play.

That's just the tip of the iceberg- I’m sure there are another half-dozen releases from Acadiana I have been listening to that I just can’t think of right now. All this wonderful music keeping us going in good times and bad. That’s why we do it, because it brings us together, and together we will remain Louisiana Strong.

Oh, Maw-Maw

Maw-maw, ma-ma, me-me, me-maw. We who have had them cherish them. They are special. They are our matriarchs and the beating heart of our family. The archetype of the Cajun & Creole grandmother is one that is fading. Valcour's Lucius Fontenot wants to photograph and document as many as he can in the next year. Not only to create portraits that honor them but to hear their stories, which in the end are our stories. You can help with this project. Nominate your maw-maw or someone else's maw-maw by contacting Lu. Each will receive an 8x10 for their time. 

Lu's previous project focused on photographs and stories about Hitachi rice cookers - the standard for a generation of Cajun cooks and homemakers that defined the way rice "should" taste. HIs study was captured in this story with Lafayette Travel.

Cedric Watson on LPB's Art Rocks

LPB's Senior Producer Dorothy Kendrick wrote this guest blog post about featuring Cedric Watson on Art Rocks:

Louisiana has an abundance of talented artists and it can be very challenging deciding whom to feature on Art Rocks. When one of my colleagues suggested we do a profile on Cedric Watson, a Lafayette musician with four Grammy nominations, I was unfamiliar with the name—perhaps because I am of another generation.  But when I heard him perform, recognized his accomplishments, and saw his commitment to preserving traditional Creole music; I knew I had to tell Cedric’s story.

What a treat when we finally found the opportunity to sit down for an interview! Cedric has a vibrant personality, very open and refreshingly honest. From the few hours I got to spend with Cedric, I feel Louisiana is very fortunate to have him represent us in the music world, not only because of his talent but because of his overall disposition. What an ambassador for Creole music!

Watch the full episode of Art Rocks on the LPB website.

'Tis the Season

Lomax Box Set Now Complete

Well, the day has finally come: all four CDs in our ten-year anniversary box set, I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country have arrived! Please do yourself a favor and listen to some tracks. This project, produced by Joel Savoy and Joshua Caffery and featuring so many of Louisiana's most talented musicians, is our largest musical undertaking to date. We just can't say enough about how cool it turned out - the way these artists have taken these old recordings and given them new life. We couldn't have picked a better collection to mark our first decade of producing and promoting Louisiana music.

The full collection features 24 tracks (and maybe an extra hidden surprise) by an incredible group of musicians, including Michael Doucet, Marc Broussard, Wayne Toups, Zachary Richard, Tiffany Lamson, Steve Riley, Ann Savoy, Dirk Powell, Roddie Romero, Cedric Watson, David Greely, Joel Savoy, Kelli Jones-Savoy, Wilson Savoy, Anna Laura Edmiston, Kristi Guillory, Joshua Caffery, Claire Caffery, Barry Ancelet, Carl Brazell, Megan Brown and Aurora Nealand.

If you want to see some of this music performed live by many of the artists featured in the box set, join us at the Acadiana Center for the Arts on January 14 or 15 for a special kind of showcase. Narrated by Dr. Barry Ancelet and presented in music, story and visuals, this show will take you on a musical journey across South Louisiana as documented by Lomax in 1934.

We also got to work with some talented visual artists in putting the packaging together for the box set, including Rachel Meirs (Part One), Frederick Stivers (Part Two), Gabrielle Savoy (Part Three), and Cayla Mattea Zeek (Part Four).

Learn more about the book that inspired this project, Joshua Caffery's Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordingshere.

Oh, What a Silent Night

Yvette Landry is one of our favorite Acadiana musicians - she has appeared on some of our releases in the past, but you may or may not have had a chance to hear her solo work. Yvette plays soulful country music the way it is supposed to be played, and we thought her sound would lend itself greatly to a Christmas release. And with Oh, What a Silent Night, we found out we were right!

This small collection of country-style Christmas carols is available through our website only as a download. The Breaux Bridge songstress is accompanied by Richard Comeaux on the pedal steel guitar, Beau Thomas on fiddle, and Trevor Landry on drums. We hope it helps bring some beauty, soul, and even a little country blues to your holiday sound track!

Yesterday's Gone

But wait - there's even more music! Last month, just in time for Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, we released a great folky Cajun recording with a great young Acadiana band called T'Monde, featuring Megan Brown, Kelli Jones, and Drew Simon. Bringing together influences ranging from early Country music to ancient French and Creole ballads to present day Cajun music, T’Monde plays music that is made for the ears as well as the feet. No where is this description truer than on Yesterday's Gone.

Valcour wishes you a safe and happy holiday season - and thanks for supporting us for ten years!

It's that time of year

It's that time of year

It’s festival time again in southwest Louisiana! 

Fall is just around the corner- the mornings are getting cooler and all of Acadiana is eager to celebrate the end of summer with Festivals Acadiens et Creoles. Here at Valcour headquarters we too are ready for festival season and the inevitable winding down of the year that brings us together with friends and family for the holidays. 

So much has happened this year! As I type this I’m listening to the final mixes for the fourth part of our milestone project, Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country: twenty four tracks recorded and mixed over the last 18 months featuring a very big handful of Acadiana’s finest artists. After a year and half working on it, it’s hard to believe that this project is just about wrapped up and that our tenth year in business is drawing to a close. I certainly hope you’ve all enjoyed it and I want to thank you all for your support over these last ten years- we couldn’t have gotten this far without you!

In Memoriam: Jillian Johnson

In Memoriam: Jillian Johnson

In the world of music, great masters die at ripe old ages and young superstars flame out in their twenties.

In our world – that of a very small, regionally based independent record label, you find yourself surrounded by creatives, by entrepreneurs and self-starters. Look to your left and you’ll see talented musicians doing what they do for love of the music, not for expectations of fame and fortune. Look to your right and you’ll see visual artists, designers, and managers that have donated their abilities to beautifying and promoting a sound and a culture that represents them. Eventually you’ll see momentum build and you’ll end up with a “scene”, or a cohesive movement. You’ll end up with a mass of people with great gifts to share that seem to transform and even transcend a community.

And occasionally, in the midst of that movement, a certain, rare breed of genius emerges. The person who is at once musical, artistic, and entrepreneurial. The person who helps both anchor and progress the community’s movement, if that is possible.

Lafayette is one such community and Jillian Johnson was one such genius. Last night, we lost her to a selfish, senseless act of apparently random violence.