Hackberry Ramblers | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hackberry Ramblers 

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HACKBERRY RAMBLERS

When a band dates back to 1933, it can't help but go through some phases. Shortly after Cajuns Luderin Darbone, a fiddler, and Edwin Duhon, an accordionist, first pulled together the Hackberry Ramblers, they began spicing the traditional Cajun sound with the blues and newfangled influences like hillbilly music and western swing. In 1935 the band signed to RCA/Bluebird, recording a number of sides in both English (often as the Riverside Ramblers) and the musicians' indigenous patois; through the 40s and 50s the Hackberrys worked country-and-western roadhouses around Lake Charles, Louisiana. Today their music is still undergirded by the eerie modal drone and relentless, raw rhythms of the rural southern Louisiana tradition; even their accents remain decidedly down-home. But their repertoire is as adventurous as ever. Their new album, Deep Water (Hot Biscuits), features guests like Marcia Ball, Rodney Crowell, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and they toss around chestnuts aplenty, including "C.C. Rider," "Frankie and Johnny," and a surreal, wheezy "Proud Mary." Some of the stylistic leaps are too broad for the band to pull off gracefully, and the guest stars' spoken tributes occasionally sound canned, but when the Hackberrys are in high gear the joy is absolutely infectious. Live, they refuse to stop playing until the entire room is dancing, and even at their advanced ages (all but the drummer are over 60) they party with an exuberance aggressive enough to shame musicians 40 years younger. These sets are part of the venue's 16th annual American Music Festival. Saturday, 4:30 and 7:15 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Phillip Gould.

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