Except for a few notable exceptions — the Hackberry Ramblers, Chuck Guillory and Harry Choates being a few obvious examples — artists working the Cajun circuit have seldom been models of eclecticism. The Red Stick Ramblers, whose members include Joel Savoy, the son of Marc and Anne Savoy, can be added to this select group.
The sextet (featuring two fiddles but no accordion) can swing like mad, but the rhythms often come from hot club gypsy jazz or western swing. The group’s self-titled debut of 2002 featured Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s “Tears”; this follow-up includes Reinhardt’s “Blue Drag”. The Ramblers are also partial to Bob Wills, having included a wonderful version of “Take Me Back To Tulsa” on the first album. This time they add their own spin to “Dinah”, an old standard covered by Wills; “Bring It On Down”, which was recorded by both Wills and Milton Brown; and “Stay All Night”, written by Tommy Duncan.
The Ramblers’ three Cajun songs fit surprisingly well with their explorations of other styles. While the four Cajun tracks on the debut drew directly from performances by Dennis McGee and the Balfa Brothers, the ones on the new album look to other legends. “Two Step des Condamnes” (with Steve Riley on accordion) is a modified version of an Iry LeJeune song, while “Belle” is from the repertoire of Gerard Dole, France’s most well-known Cajun performer.
None of the members are prolific songwriters, but their originals are strong. “Rattle My Cage” could fit on a bluegrass album, while “When the Sugar Cane’s Tall” evokes old cowboy songs.
Though pacing is a little slow and the material doesn’t always exude the same jubilant energy as their first album, Bring It On Down is still a worthy sophomore effort from a group that has quickly become one of the most sophisticated bands in Cajun country.