Bois Sec Ardoin & Balfa Toujours | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bois Sec Ardoin & Balfa Toujours 

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In the history of Cajun music, few names carry more weight than Ardoin and Balfa. Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin's late cousin, the accordionist Amedee Ardoin, made the first recordings ever by a black Creole, which in the 1920s helped lay the foundation for zydeco. Bois Sec turns 82 on Monday and has himself played accordion for most of the century, most notably with the late fiddler Canray Fontenot. Ardoin's work lacks the twang of modern Cajun music, and it's not zydeco, either--he still plays a form that was the common ancestor of both, and his exuberant squeeze-box riffs, ragged violin runs, and propulsive strummed guitar make it easy to hear how similar white music and black music once were in southern Louisiana, where both the Ardoin and Balfa families have lived for generations. The Balfa Brothers were one of the country's most popular traditional Cajun groups from the 1940s until 1979, when Will and Rodney were killed in an auto accident. Their leader, Dewey, continued to serve as an ambassador for Cajun music until his death in 1992, and now his daughter Christine carries the torch as leader of Balfa Toujours. On the band's recent La Pointe (Rounder) her soulful warble, piercing and nasal, takes after her father's; the album includes a bunch of traditionals and a few new tunes penned by the group's superb fiddler-accordionist (and Christine's husband), Dirk Powell. Balfa Toujours also appears on Allons danser, the first new Bois Sec Ardoin studio recording in over two decades. Bois Sec's accordion can still start a party all by itself, and his beautifully raw, lusty croak proves he's no calcified museum piece. Considering the present-day dominance of zydeco--bluesy and often electrified, even fortified by a full drum kit, in contrast to Cajun music--and the fact that most of the great Cajun pioneers have died, the opportunity to see members of these two musical dynasties share a stage shouldn't be taken for granted. Friday, 8 PM, Hammerschmidt Chapel, Elmhurst College, 190 Prospect, Elmhurst; 630-617-6100. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Bois Sec Ardoin uncredited photo; Balfa Toujours photo by Rick Oliver.

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