Earthy Pleasure Beyond Conflict and Poverty: Cedric Watson and Corey Ledet’s Goin’ Down to Louisiana

By Daniel Garrett

Cedric Watson and Corey Ledet, Goin’ Down to Louisiana
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Joel Savoy
Valcour Records, 2011

On Goin’ Down to Louisiana, fiddler Cedric Watson and accordionist Corey Ledet the musical program includes: “Goin’ Down to Louisiana,” “Broken Hearted,” “Ma Negresse,” “Black Snake,” “Calinda,” “Madame Faielle,” “Valse de Cherokee,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Canray’s One Step,” “Mama Told Papa,” “Richard’s Two Step,” and “Hungry Man Blues.”  Watson’s fiddle and Ledet’s accordion are the center of this convocation of Creole Louisiana music, zydeco music, the rural music of colored or African-American people who speak French and are usually Catholic in south Louisiana.  Their band consists of guitarist Chas Justus, bassist Dion Pierre, and drummer Jermaine Prejean.  The music the men make has a beautiful, yearning quality: it is an expression of earthy pleasure beyond conflict and poverty, of beauty and transcendence between people who live and work on the land and know and help each other, of something possible although not likely anywhere but taking place in a particular locale among particular people.

Immediately hot, the song “Goin’ Down to Louisiana” is swinging zydeco music bearing some connection to rock-and-roll.  The singing in “Broken Hearted,” in which a man asks to be let alone, is plaintive, but the music is richly pleasant.  The divergent rhythms in “Ma Negresse” give the composition its complexity and charm, whereas “Black Snake,” with drumming by Brad Frank, has a country blues feel.  Watson’s fiddle is the dominant force in the old-fashion country dance song “Calinda.”  The tempo is fast and sends “Madame Faielle” reeling with a lot of energy; and although the song has some lyrics, it is mostly instrumental.  The album Goin’ Down to Louisiana is a wonderful chapter in zydeco music by varied songwriters, including Clifton Chenier and Canray Fontenot.  The melancholy waltz “Valse de Cherokee” has a fascinating tone—sad and happy at the same time, something you can listen to while dancing or thinking or both, suggesting wholeness, an embrace of life’s contradictions.  A unique treatment, with a lot of texture, of a familiar song, “Let the Good Times Roll” is a zydeco frolic; and “Canray’s One Step,” which comes after, is full of twang and wail, the most piercing sounds.  Although “Mama and Papa” is not rhythm-and-blues, in its tumultuous rhythm and shouting vocal style, it bears resemblance to it.  The composition, with simple lyrics repeated, could be a warning to the young.  “Richard’s Two Step” is a French-language reel; and “Hungry Man Blues” has a driving, steamy beat.

Daniel Garrett, a graduate of the New School for Social Research, and the principal organizer of the Cultural Politics Discussion Group at Poets House and ABC No Rio, is a writer whose work has appeared in print and online, in The African, All About Jazz, American Book Review, Black Film Review, Cinetext, Film International, The Humanist, Hyphen, Identity Theory, Illuminations, Option, Pop Matters, Rain Taxi, Review of Contemporary Fiction, and Wax Poetics, as well as The Compulsive Reader.  Daniel Garrett edited poetry for the male feminist Changing Men magazine, wrote about the African-American artists Henry Tanner, Edward Bannister, and Reginald Madison for Art & Antiques, reported on environmental issues and organized the first interdepartmental meeting on environmental justice for National Audubon (The Audubon Activist), reviewed books for World Literature Today, and essayed international film for Offscreen.  Daniel Garrett has written a novel, A Stranger on Earth, which features stories of friendship and love, ignorance and knowledge, and art and mundane work, in the lives of a woman artist and her associates.