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"Making a Statement"

By Herman Fuselier
The Daily Advertiser

Kevin Naquin is sticking to his guns. Naquin is among the flood of young men in their 20s, 30s and younger playing Cajun accordion. Some play traditional French music while a growing number drift toward the English lyrics of rock ‘n’ roll, swamp pop and zydeco. But Naquin feels Cajun music is more than laissez les bons temps rouler — it’s about making a statement.

“It scares me that a lot of these artists are turning away from the French stuff,” said Naquin, 26, a resident of Scott. “Our Cajun music is just going to become rock ‘n’ roll or swamp pop and we’re just going to forget about the language. People are going to think it’s still a Cajun band because he’s still playing a Falcon accordion or a Martin accordion. It’s going to be Americanized.

“I want to sell records like everybody else. I’m realizing too, do I want to sell my heritage and culture just to make money off CDs? In the long run, what am I doing to my kids and grandkids down the road?” Naquin stands up for his French heritage on his new CD and fifth of his career, Mercredi Soir Passé (Last Wednesday Night), recently released on Swallow Records of Ville Platte.

The title song is Kevin’s version of a rare recording done by his late great-grandfather, Edius Naquin, who was born in 1901. Other originals include Ma Petite Ange (My Little Angel), a tribute to Naquin’s wife Rachael and eight-month old daughter Kaleigh Rachelle, Lonely Girl Two-Step, a pepped-up version of a Walter Mouton waltz, and Ayoù Mon Tennis Shoe?, a bi-lingual comedy about a sneaker that ends up cooking in a sauce piquant.

Naquin’s covers include The Back Door, Hold My False Teeth, Bayou Pon Pon and the Evangeline Special. But Naquin also delves into swamp pop with Opelousas Sostan and Got You On My Mind (featuring Pat Breaux on saxophone.)

Naquin feels the sax-flavored swamp pop doesn’t betray his dedication to French music. “It shows the versatility we can do,” said Naquin. “I find that the Cajun and swamp pop does real well at a club or festival.

“When we play clubs or festivals for the first time, we get the question ‘Do you play just French or do you have some type of English in there?’ I did that to broaden my audience and to get more airplay on different stations, maybe get a swamp pop station or country station to take a look at the product and see what it’s about. “I still stick to my roots. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary that would make people say, ‘Hey, he’s changing.’ If I’m doing anything on this CD, I’m improvising and trying to be more creative, trying to keep that edge.”

Naquin is pleased to record his great grandfather’s tune, which he first heard when he was 14. But the old improvised ballad did not set well on Naquin’s young ears, which were tuned to Steve Riley and Wayne Toups at the time. But 12 years later, a wife, daughter and aging grandparents have given him a new appreciation for family and the song.

The tune still proved to be challenging. “It’s a tricky song because there’s no exact measures. When you’re playing it, it’s all by feel. It’s a bluesy kind of song, so it’s not the easiest song in the world to play. “When the vocals come in, there’s so much different ranges. It’s not the same melody. “We played it live a couple of times and people started asking about it. I figured it was time to do it.”

 

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