I can't believe tomorrow is July 1st!
I got some exciting news today from my publisher: the date of my first book launch event is already set. It will be in late January at an independent bookstore in SF. (I'll share details a little later.) Tomorrow the page proofs should arrive, so I know how I'll be spending the next couple of weeks!
I promised a monthly contest. So here is the question for July: Tell me about a song that changed your life.
Prize: A Sauce Piquante CD (unless I think of something else!)
To kick things off, here's the song that changed my life, from Chapter 1 of "Accordion Dreams." The place: on the road, about an hour outside of New Orleans, coming back from a swamp tour that had given me my first glimpse of Cajun country. The song: Dans le Sud de la Louisiane ("In South Louisiana") from a recording by Beausoleil.
Papa Joe didn't have what you'd consider a pretty voice. It sounded too life-roughened-whether from late nights, cigarettes, whiskey, or simply the passage of time, I couldn't say. And as a tour guide, he had more skill in steering a pontoon boat through the Louisiana swamp than navigating his way around a melody.
But once he was moved to sing, he didn't appear concerned about his audience-or the road ahead. He turned up the tape in the white Dodge van, threw back his head, half closed his eyes, and joined in on the rousing chorus, trying to sing through the grin that remained on his face until the song ended.
I struggled to make out the words. Not an easy task, since this was a tale told in French. I did understand one line that kept recurring: "On a trouvé un paradis dedans le sud de la Louisiane." We found a paradise in South Louisiana.
I didn't need to know much more. I could see the pride that surged through Papa Joe as he sang along with the recording, more effective than any lecture he could have given us. His words were in Cajun French, but the message came through clearly. "Listen to me. This is who we are."
The French language drew me in, but the rhythm held me there. Loping and easy, but propulsive, all at the same time. Rising and falling, in and out, round and round. The moment of hesitation in between. A lop-sided carousel, an egg-shaped wheel, rising up against the pull of gravity, then falling forward, descending in a rush. I felt off balance, teetering, chasing my tail. An orderly sound, up to a point. But the wildness threatened to rise up, from just below the surface. I could hear it in the alternating call of fiddle and accordion, the steady roll of guitar chords, the crashing drums and ringing triangle-and in the French voices straddling the ledge between song and shout, melody and wail.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders