Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
Hailing from about 50 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, the Lost Bayou Ramblers feature a mix of traditional Cajun music (Cajun accordion, fiddle and triangle with a waltz or two-step beat), blues and rock 'n' roll.
"We started off playing traditional Cajun music, and it was definitely important to have a good handle on the essentials of the music, and we had been playing for a couple of decades," said Louis Michot, who founded the band with his brother, Andre. "Our live shows just kept getting wilder and wilder and more and more experimental and spontaneous, and our recordings were staying more traditional. So we really just decided to pull the stopper and let it flow."
The resulting river of creativity is on display on the band's newest album, "Mammoth Waltz."
So does Michot think the band has freed itself from the constraints of traditional Cajun music with the new album?
"Yeah, definitely. I think this album, as much as we've been always geared that way, this album has really solidified who we are and how people perceive us and that we really are into creating a musical experience," Michot said.
"For one thing, it's open to the crowd," Michot said. "The more and more the crowd is into it, the more crazy we're going to get, and then just being open to different sonic-scapes we make with our instruments." The result is "psychedelic," say some of the band members, who draw inspiration from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to accomplish the final product.
"We have the accordion running through pedals, feeding it through the amp, and there are fiddles. There's definitely feedback and interesting things coming out of the amps that you wouldn't normally hear from a Cajun band."
"Mammoth Waltz" includes 11 original songs, all with the common thread of Cajun French lyrics.
"The language barrier is definitely there, but I think that given that the subject matter is a lot of blues," he said, "it's either about love, or it's about the ecological things."
The album has the potential to resonate with Arkansans in more ways than one. "All of the songs are real, and they're about real things in my life, and when I'm singing them, I'm feeling and I'm remembering where I was when I wrote that every time," Michot said. "That's really what carries the message across the song because whether or not you can understand French, you can definitely feel what I'm talking about even if you can't understand the exact words."
Two songs in particular may strike a chord with Arkansans in the wake of the Exxon Pegasus pipeline spill. Both "Marée Noir" ("The black tide is a bad dream / The oilfields are floating while the marshes are drowning / We thought we'd never see it, but the black tide is here") and "Bastille" refer to the BP oil spill in the gulf, which devastated the Louisiana ecosystem.
"When I write songs, they come very quick, and the oil spill lasted so long that a couple of months into it, I was writing material for the album, and it would just not stop," Louis said. "They couldn't plug it; it just kept pouring into our gulf so every morning it was just a depressing situation. Really just the ongoing stress that we all felt during that situation was my inspiration, thinking about the people that were closer to it than we were."
But despite the sometimes gloomy subject matter — they're influenced by the blues, after all — the Lost Bayou Ramblers certainly know how to get a party started and keep it going.
Lost Bayou Ramblers will headline the Heritage Hog Roast with a full set beginning at 8 p.m. They'll follow a full entertainment line-up throughout the day: singer/songwriter Mandy McBryde (12:45-2 p.m.), Memphis bluesman Davis Coen (2:15-3:30 p.m.), singer/songwriter Bonnie Montgomery (3:45-5 p.m.), improv from The Joint (5-5:30 p.m.), blues-inflected pop rock group Riverboat Crime (5:30-6:45 p.m.) and Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners The Sound of the Mountain (7-8 p.m.). Tickets to the festival are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. After 7 p.m., tickets to hear music are $10. Get advanced tickets at heritagewholehogroast.eventbrite.com.