Talent, Friendships Fuel Grammy Nominee Bonsoir, Catin
LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) — Magic can happen around a campfire, especially when that warm blaze is glowing at the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week. That's when music lovers from across the globe journey here to learn music, dance, language and culture in the heart of Cajun and Creole country.
Jam sessions, sometimes lasting until sunrise, can spark tears and inspiration. A campfire jam connected Christine Balfa with Kristi Guillory and Yvette Landry, all of whom live within a few miles of each other but had never played music together.
They didn't want the music to end. The almost all-female Cajun band Bonsoir, Catin was born.
"Kristi hadn't been playing much music," said Balfa. "We were hanging around the campfire and Kristi was like, 'I really want to start playing more.' I was like 'Wow.' Yvette was right there and she just started learning how to play bass.
"I hit it off with both of them so easily," she said.
They asked Anya Burgess, who also was there, to join them on fiddle.
"We set up an acoustic gig at the Welcome Center at Butte La Rose. It had just opened. That was our first gig," Balfa said. "It was so easy. It has been so easy ever since. It's very, very organic, very natural. They've all become some of my best friends."
Ten years and three CDs later and Bonsoir, Catin is enjoying its first Grammy nomination. The band's 2014 release, "Light the Stars," is in the running for the Best Regional Roots Album Grammy.
The Magnolia Sisters and Jo-El Sonnier, also local musicians, are nominated in the same category, along with Hawaiian musician Kamaka Kukona and Native American artist Joe Tohonnie Jr. The winner will be announced Feb. 8 in Los Angeles.
The "Light the Stars" CD contains eight original songs with touches of electric guitar, harmonies, swamp pop, blues and even Hammond B-3 organ, courtesy of Eric Adcock from the Hub City All Stars. The recording is the first for new band member, Maegan Berard, daughter of the late musician Al Berard.
Berard sings and plays electric guitar solo in the swamp-pop flavored tearjerker, "Jour Si Longs" (These Long Days) . She also adds harmony to "Je Vais Jamais Faire Ca" (I Will Never Do That) and "Fait Tu Voir" (You Better See).
Guillory, the band's accordionist and songwriter, said song ideas can come at unexpected times and places.
"When I sit down to write a song, sometimes the melody will come first," said Guillory. "I might be washing dishes or blow-drying my hair and I'll hear a melody and record it. I've had some stuff that sat there for months and I'll go back and write a story around it.
"When I write in French, I write in French. I used to translate but now, when I hear the lyric it comes to me in French."
Berard praises Guillory's songwriting and has felt right at home, after initial fears of joining the Catins.
"I started going out and I used to see them," said Berard. "I always thought they were so awesome. Kristi was like, 'You need to come jam with us.' I was too scared.
"But the stars aligned. In 2012, Yvette couldn't make a gig in Ohio. So I went and played bass. I had so much fun. We all just hit it off.
"Kristi said, 'You need to join the band.' She originally wanted me to play lap steel, but I couldn't play lap steel. We decided on electric guitar and I joined the band. It's amazing, and I love it."
—Kristi Guillory (accordion, vocals)
A child prodigy of the Cajun accordion in the early 1990s, Guillory has been playing since age 10. Her extensive knowledge of French and poetry has helped her become a top songwriter. Guillory serves as an instructor in the traditional music program at UL Lafayette.
—Christine Balfa (guitar, vocals)
Daughter of Cajun fiddling legend Dewey Balfa, Christine has been performing music more than 20 years, including time with her father and her first band, Balfa Toujours. Balfa is also a French singer and songwriter and teaches at the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra's Conservatory of Music. She is the founder of Louisiana Folk Roots, a nonprofit that preserves and promotes Cajun and Creole culture.
—Yvette Landry (bass, vocals)
Landry, a singer, songwriter and musician, shares the stage and studio with Bonsoir, Catin, Lafayette Rhythm Devils and other Cajun bands. She also performs as a solo country artist, recently at Nashville's famed Bluebird Cafe. When she's not playing music, Landry stays busy as a private homeschool teacher, children's author and sign language interpreter and instructor.
—Anya Burgess (fiddle, vocals)
Burgess is a double-Grammy nominee — she also plays fiddle with the Magnolia Sisters, also nominated for the Best Regional Roots Grammy. She builds and repairs fiddles at her new shop, SOLA Violins, in downtown Lafayette. A native of Boston, Burgess studied violin-making at Indiana University and holds a degree in stringed instrument technology.
—Maegan Berard (electric guitar, vocals)
A guitarist since age 12, Berard is the daughter of beloved Cajun musician Al Berard, who died last year. Berard cites her father and Jimmy Page as her guitar heroes. A native French speaker from Cecilia, Berard also plays and sings with her sister, Laura, and cousin, Callie Guidry, in the trio Sweet Cecilia.
—Danny Devillier (drums)
The lone male member of Bonsoir Catin, Devillier has more than 20 years' experience in music. He holds a master's degree in theory and composition and has deep roots in rock 'n' roll, jazz, classical and more. Devillier has taught music at UL, South Louisiana Community College and the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
– by AP/ Reporter Herman Fuselier with The Advertiser