Young Lafayette Cajun bands are in the midst of the Great March Backward, looking to their roots for inspiration. When the Red Stick Ramblers were on Memphis International Records, they seemed to suppress those roots, focusing more on western swing, hot jazz and other fiddle-based dance music — all of which they’re very good at. Still, they didn’t sound as much at home as they do on their Sugar Hill debut, where the key musical statements are Cajun.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the six or so minutes of “Tes Parents Ne Veulent Plus Me Voir”. The interplay between Kevin Wimmer and Linzay Young’s fiddles is hypnotic, and it ratchets up the excitement and energy in the instrumental passage, a point where many songs dissipate in empty displays of virtuosity. No one does anything remarkable in the song, but the pleasure of a band discovering together subdivisions of the beat that hip-hop producers couldn’t imagine is obvious.
The Red Stick Ramblers are all over the string-driven map, but their subtlest move is to mask their eclectic nature. Lyrically and musically, the title cut is like George Jones’ “White Lightning” set in southwest Louisiana; the challenge for a band that pulls together Clifton Chenier, Canray Fontenot, Belton Richard, Bob Wills and Count Basie is to make the disparate sounds hold together and not sound faux-retro. They succeed by foregrounding the simple pleasures — the song and the dance — that motivated almost all our American musical ancestors to pick up their instruments in the first place.