On the North York Moors

The Pine Leaf Boys and Emily Barker

Wed 18 July 2007

The Pine Leaf Boys

Not many people know this but the first band we had here in the modern era of the Band Room (which began in 1995 - long after the Farndale Silver Band had folded and given away all their instruments) was the great US Cajun band BALFA TOUJOURS. We'd seen a Gallic Cajun band, the French Alligators, play a great show in the Yorkshire Dales in the summer of that year and were so enthused when we got home to Farndale we thought, hey, we could do that here!...and landed on our feet when we heard the Balfas were coming our way in a few weeks time. It turned out to be one of the greatest nights we've ever had...there was a full moon, Glyn was there to show us all how to dance, Big Mark met Carolyn - and the Balfas' virtuoso fiddler Kevin Wimmer did all but catch fire. Or was that the bottle of Talisker we made available to the band during the interval?

The Balfas brought T-shirts with them that night adorned with Cajun legend DEWEY BALFA's mantra 'A culture is preserved one generation at a time', by which he meant there was an onus on bands like Balfa Toujours to keep his flame burning...and believe us, they do. But Cajun bands have been a little thin on the ground in the UK these past few years...They come over to Gloucester's winter Cajun festival but rarely venture much deeper into the provinces. How many emails have we sent the leading US Cajun bands imploring them to visit us these last few years? We've lost count...

So we jumped at the chance to bring Lafayette, Louisiana's THE PINE LEAF BOYS here. Led by WILSON SAVOY (whose mother Ann made a critically-acclaimed album with LINDA RONSTADT last year), who also plays in the SAVOY FAMILY BAND and THE SAVOY MICHOT CAJUN BAND, the Pine Leaf Boys will be touring their new album Blues de Musicien and are the real thing, having made their name with an infectious, exuberant fusion of Cajun, Creole and Zydeco. Acclaimed as "the link which connects the young and old Cajun generations," and "the best new Cajun band in a very long time," the Pine Leaf Boys play the dance hall standards and many of the more obscure songs of past Cajun masters...as well as their own songs - the ones taking Cajun into the new era...

Pine Leaf Boys biography and reviews from the band's website:

Multi-tasking instrumentalists, it’s not uncommon to see The Pine Leaf Boys switch and trade-off during their raucous shows. All five members - WILSON SAVOY, CEDRIC WATSON, JON BERTRAND, DREW SIMON and BLAKE MILLER - are in their early twenties and live in Lafayette, Louisiana. Steeped in music since children and hailing from farms and villages in Cajun country the Pine Leaf Boys have been preserving the traditional Cajun sound, while allowing it to breathe and and stretch into the modern era. They present their music in multiple configurations such a twin fiddle, duo accordion/fiddle, bass, drum, and even stomping jurés.

They play music because they love it, something which is evident in their shows. As Wilson says: "If we weren't doing it over there on stage, we'd be right at home on our front porch jamming together every night."

"The live performances of the Pine Leaf Boys are a revelation of anarchy and reverence and manic exuberance funneled through traditional musical forms. Imagine a wide river, storm-tossed and swollen with rain, staying within the banks but cutting a deep channel. Or, imagine a vintage tube amplifier driven to its electrical limit. A Pine Leaf performance is like that. Full-throttle and wide open, The Pine Leaf Boys heat the tubes of the old music until they break up into the sweetest distortion imaginable."
(Josh Caffery).

"It's hard to avoid food metaphors when writing about Cajun music. The words spicy, saucy, tangy all lend themselves well to its description, but such hackneyed clichés have no place in the Metro Santa Cruz... it must be noted that the Pine Leaf Boys play Cajun/Zydeco music like no other twentysomethings we've ever heard. Musical polygamists, they frequently swap accordions, guitars, fiddles midshow and sound good no matter who is playing what. The experience of a good zydeco show is like being in an unruly bar brawl without all that pesky fighting. Rowdy dancing and a sense of communal inebriation are the order of the evening, so polish up those alligator boots and get ready to romp.
(Metro Santa Cruz)

"Every once in awhile it happens - the gods of Cajun tap another young group to hoist the banner of traditional Cajun-Creole music and as of late, it’s the Pine Leaf Boys who have been summoned. They’re one of the most talented aggregations to emerge in some time with Creole fiddler Cedric Watson and two progeny from accordion-building families, Wilson Savoy (accordion) and Blake Miller (bass). Their auspicious debut is not only true to the roots but has the balanced blend veteran groups shoot for. Among the copious ingredients is a proclivity for attacking the music with exuberant passion as well as having three alternating vocalists who each supply a distinct flavoring. Drummer Drew Simon croons in an unadulterated workman style, recalling the forgotten, rustic vocalists who paid their dues without recognition. Watson booms with husky pipes while Savoy isn’t afraid to strain his nasally voice with wrenching emotion (“Blues de Bosco”). Additionally, they also aren’t afraid to alternate multi-instrumentalists who can do twin fiddles with Watson...
(Dan Willging)

"The 14 cuts of the Pine Leaf Boys' first album La Musique perfectly capture their spirit. Their looseness comes across as effortless talent as they switch up duties and play what can best be described as rollicking back-porch music. With the subtle changes in their style and the three vocalists' distinct sounds, the album never lags as it crackles along, recorded on analog. It's remarkably adherent to old styles, with its roots running deep, yet it is incredibly fresh and resoundingly vibrant.
(Nick Pittman, Times of Acadiana).

"The Pine Leaf Boys are a new generation of Cajun musicians from Louisiana who not only grew up with the music but live and breathe it. The young PLBs play authentic, traditional Cajun, Creole and zydeco music while adding some updates of their own."
(Berkeley Community Calendar)

"The Pine Leaf Boys want to rid the world of what they call "faux Cajun bands" ... Their exaggerated accents and mispronunciations would make made-for-TV Cajun Justin Wilson blush. I went to hear and dance to the Pine Leaf Boys last night here in Atlanta. I think they are one of the best new young bands from the genre that I have heard in a very long time. Cedric Watson (fiddler extraordinaire) and Wilson Savoy (brilliant - accordion, vocals, and fiddle) capture the soul of so many of the older artists, including musicians such as Canray Fontenot through Danny and Edward Poullard (to whom they recorded a homage on their CD entitled La Musique). Their music is infused with such enthusiasm and energy..."
(Local review of show in Atlanta, Georgia)

WILSON SAVOY (accordion, fiddle & vocals) has known Cajun music since he was a child growing up on a farm near Eunice, Louisiana. At the age of 15, Wilson’s father gave him an accordion that he built from the wood of a Sassafras tree that was planted the same day his grandfather was born, and died the same year as his grandfather. He began focusing his attention from playing Honky-Tonk piano to the accordion when he moved to Baton Rouge and studied Communications at LSU. Upon completing his minor in German, Wilson moved to Lafayette and with friends Cedric Watson and Jon Bertrand. At the age of 18, Wilson began touring the world with his parents, Ann and Marc Savoy, and his brother, Joel Savoy, in the Savoy Family Band. At the age of 20, Wilson began his own band, The White Mule Boys, with Kevin Courville and Stew Davis. By age 21, Wilson was touring around the United States and France teaching accordion at music camps such as Augusta, Fiddle Tunes, and Tikendalc'h in Bretagne, France. Wilson's accordion style is influenced heavily by blues and improvisation, as his role models have been Amédé Ardoin, Iry LeJeune, Lawrence Walker, and his father, Marc Savoy, but enjoys and continues to be influenced by old and modern Cajun, Soul, and Blues ranging from traditional and modern Cajun and Zydeco to Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis piano styles. Wilson has received an honorary state grant to study fiddle with the brilliant fiddle legend, Ken Smith. Together with Cedric Watson, Wilson plays twin fiddle inspired by Ken Smith, Mike Doucet, Lionel Leloux, and David Greely.

CEDRIC WATSON (fiddle, accordion & vocals) has studied les vieilles styles of Canray Fontenot and Bébé Carrière and lives, breathes, and eats Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco, having introduced a heap of new arrangements and original songs to the group. Cedric studies ancient French and ballads of Blind Uncle Gaspard and Edius Naquin and adds a fantastic new energy and style to the Pine Leaf Boys, carrying his weight by playing the accordion, drums, and guitar. Cedric adds a fanastic element to the Pine Leaf Boys through his thoughtful adaptions of these ballads and incredible fiddle styles of his heros.

Cedric's fantastic interpretations of melody and master improvisational skills are untouched by any Creole fiddler today. Typically, Cedric and Wilson will switch accordion and fiddle during a show, and bring forward a unique sound to the Pine Leaf Boys.

DREW SIMON (drums & vocals) was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana and developed an interest in Cajun music in his late teens. At 18, he started playing drums and singing with his brother in a local group called Acadien. Soon after, he learned how to play the accordion, guitar, and bass and developed a great passion for singing some of the forgotten cajun classics by the likes of Belton Richard, Lawrence Walker, Philip Alleman, Vorence Barzas and the Balfa Brothers. Drew, of all the Pine Leaf Boys, is probably the most sought after to fill in for other cajun musicians when the PLBs aren't playing. Drew is strictly a traditionalist, playing and singing in a style which has been described as a "simple,older, blue collared cajun."

As he sits behind the drumset or the accordion, he hopes to bring back some of the memories, spirit, and soul of a generation long ago, of Cajun musicians who told their life sorrows and pains through their music. He is currently a student at UL-Lafayette in Anthropology.

JON BERTRAND (guitars), was raised in the thriving hub of Jeff Davis Parish that is Pine Island or Crapeauville where he began life as a cowboy. He began playing guitar and quickly became a rhythm machine, playing with Dexter Ardoin, Cory McCauley, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Jon's major influences are Cory McCauley, Harry Choates, the Hackberry Ramblers, Iry LeJeune, Austin Pitre, and Sonny Meaux. Jon completed his studies at UL in French and today lives with the rest of the Pine Leaf Boys in Lafayette, LA. Jon is a rocker, and he is influenced by many groups, not just Cajun.

BLAKE MILLER (guitar and bass) grew up in the humble town of Iota. The elder of two children, he began playing accordion at a very young age and supernaturally became fluent on the 10-button box. Limited by the diatonic squeeze box, Blake shifted his focus to the fiddle and, "practiced fiddle for hours a day while his accordion sat on the shelf," according to his Dad, Brünò. Before even graduating high school in 2005, Blake became renowned as the 'sought-after' musician of Louisiana for accordion, fiddle, and rhythm/lead guitar. Now, equipped with the holy trinity of Cajun instruments, Blake adds a new dynamic to the Pine Leaf Boys as a rhythm machine, solid as a Sherman tank but twice as deadly, an accompanying second-fiddle player, with harmonies more beautiful than a butterfly in a jar of honey, and bass, with walks and syncopated riffs funkier than a week-old graton.

"One thing I love about the Pine Leaf Boys is how they all switch off on their instruments throughout the show... one minute you see Wilson on accordion, then he moves to the fiddle, and Cedric takes his place. Their shows are spontaneous and fun to see."
(local fan in Lafayette)


Emily Barker

Fans of LUCINDA WILLIAMS, CALEXICO, MARTHA WAINWRIGHT, EMMYLOU HARRIS AND JONI MICHELL will love Australian singer-songwriter EMILY BARKER - who released her debut solo album PHOTOS. FIRES. FABLES. in the UK in January to rapturous critical acclaim - when she opens this show with a solo performance around 8.00pm.

Hailing from Bridgetown, Western Australia, Emily's exquisite, ethereal vocal debuted on the UK music scene at the 2002 Cambridge Folk Festival where she played alongside Rob Jackson (guitarist with BOO HERWERDINE, formerly of THE BROKEN FAMILY BAND). The success of their performance inspired them to form alt.country/folk band THE LOW COUNTRY, who released 2 albums, becoming firm favourites of John Peel.

In 2005 Emily sang with THE ARLENES and the following year opened the Cambridge Folk Festival with the string and accordion players who feature on her album as well as STEVE ADAMS of the Broken Family Band. She's currently dividing her time between Australia and the UK - developing an international fanbase through festival appearances and live shows worldwide - and has one of the stand-out tracks on the new Loose Music compilation COUNTRY GALS.

Photos. Fires. Fables. - produced by Ruben Engzell and featuring a group of phenomenal musicians going by the name The Red Clay Halo - has received across-the-board critical acclaim:

’Barker has echoes of LUCINDA WILLIAMS’ rasp and MARTHA WAINWRIGHT'S cutesy purr’

‘These are sharply observed, original songs …adventurously embellished by gypsy flourishes and haunting desert echoes that’d be at home on a CALEXICO album’

‘She has an incredible voice …surpasses any critical superlative’

‘Barker is one of those talents who comes along once in a lifetime, if you're lucky.’

‘She has a gorgeous, sincere voice that grabs you and won’t let go’

‘Barker marks out a seductive territory somewhere between BETH GIBBONS, EMMYLOU HARRIS and JONI MITCHELL … she is a rare and enriching talent’


The Pine Leaf Boys and Emily Barker website

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