« The wonderful, fiercely traditional Cajun album » by Rock’N’Reel

« I met Rick Michot, who is a judge in Lafayette, last summer during my trip to Louisiana . I like Cajun music and enjoy very much the concept of the Michot family », Patrick Frémeaux told me when I asked how he had come to release the wonderful, fiercely traditional Cajun album Dedans Le Sud De La Louisiane by Les Frères Michot on his own (French) label, Frémeaux et Associés. Patrick ‘Rick’ Michot himself provide some background to the band. « We have Cajun blood on both sides of our family. Growing up, I mostly listened to American folk and popular tunes. I have always sung a cappella songs but started playing Cajin violin in about 1981. » I was aware of the influence on Rick’s playing of Dewey Balfa. « I met him at his furniture store in Basile. Hearing his recirdings convinced me to start playing Cajun music on the violin. » The celebrated fidder Varise Conner supplies five of the tunes on the latest album. [Fiddler] lionel Leleux intruced me to Varise Conner. We had a ‘Scorpio’ jam session every November – we were all Scorpios, as is Mike Doucet. He was one of the finest Cajun violonists I have ever heard ».  How did Les Frères Michot get started ? « I had been playing Cajun music in groups for about six years, and I was sitting at a bar in downtown Lafayette around 1986, and asked the owner, Richard Bijeaux, why he didn’t have a crod, with such good hamburgers. He responded : ‘The other places have live music and I can’t afford it’. A light bulb just lit up in my head, and I asked him if he could afford 100 dollars plus a case of Red Stripe beer every Friday. He said, ‘Yes’, so I got Tommy to play accordion, and Bobby on guitar. « Mike and David had never played the instruments we needed, but I asked Mike if he’d like to play triangle and David if he’d like to play bass… I said, ‘David, you look like a bass player’. I found a lawyer who sold David a bass’ on tim’ for twenty dollars a week until the 150 dollars was raised, and we just started to learn on the job ». Rick, Tommy, Mike, David and Bobby are all brothers, of course, and the band is still family based, though these days it usually consists of rick on vocals and fiddle, marine biologist Tommy Michot on accordion, vocals and harmonica, and Rick’s son Patrick Jr. On guitar. Ricks admits, « Yes, I have tried to pass on the language and music to my son. The Cajun tradition is strong, but the survival of the languageis a challenge ». The band has several albums available. « Our first recording was with Bee Cornier out of Church Point. We have three Les Frères Michot recordings - we have certain tunes picked out ahead of time when we go into the studio to record. In addition, I have recorded with Octa Clark and Mamou prairie Band », Rick tells me. I did wonder if beinga judge affects his music-making – and he does have an answer. « Whenever the guitar player braeks a string, I usually sing ‘Les Barres De La Prison’ and think of the pain of those incarcerated ». As to the future of the band, he states : « We just want to keep doing this as long as we can and the people want us to », noting that, « Probably the most requested songs are ‘La Porte En Arrière’ and ‘Jolie Blonde’ ». The tradition should endure for a while yet, then. Norman DARWEN – ROCK’N’REEL