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Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK)
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The Shifts and the Shocks: What we've learned - and have still to learn - from the financial crisis
The Shifts and the Shocks: What we've learned - and have still to learn - from the financial crisis
by Martin Wolf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves a wide audience, 2 Mar. 2015
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Martin Wolf’s The Shifts And The Shocks, like its predecessor, Why Globalisation Works, deserves a wide audience. Not just policymakers and the chattering classes, but everyone with an ounce of literacy and a stake in the global economy, that is, you and me.

Wolf comprehensively rubbishes the neoliberal orthodoxies of rational expectations and efficient, self-correcting markets. He carefully explains why, contrary to these orthodoxies, it is necessary for governments to regulate and intervene in markets. And, in line with a growing number of commentators, he maintains that monetarist solutions on their own are not working.

Whilst I would speculate that Wolf and the Syriza government in Greece would have many points of disagreement, on the principle of the damage austerity is doing they would agree. Wolf concurs that the policies implemented in the first years of the current crisis prevented the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression. But in 2010, with the implementation of wholesale austerity a nascent recovery was choked off, with the result that growth in most advanced economies has been pitifully slow or even negative. He concentrates heavily on the contradictions of the eurozone, which he characterises as having a management system which removes sovereignty without providing collective insurance, with members at liberty only to follow orders, and a separation between policymaking responsibility and political accountability for the consequences, almost certainly guaranteeing a political crisis at some time in the future. Wolf himself does not say it, but the ongoing logic of the crisis in Greece, with a right-left polarisation, unpaid public servants and, consequently, uncontained massive civil unrest and a virtual failed state, opens the door to a nightmare scenario where Islamic State exploits the political vacuum, taking that short boat ride over the Mediterranean.

Wolf is not, however, anti-European Union. Clearly the EU has, so far, been a vehicle for harmony in the continent, with nations hitherto clamouring to enter, not leave (those of us of a certain age will remember that number once including the UK). However, the dominant powers, especially Germany, have failed in recent years to fully live up to their contract. It is an irony that a nation which was bailed out in the middle of the last century from a devastation visited upon it as a result of a previous catastrophe is unable to see the logic of intransigence over repayments (or wartime reparations, as Germany was obliged to pay between the two world wars). Furthermore, as he says, at one time Germany was only too keen to lend money to Greece, as well as loosening the rules in order to allow it to enter the eurozone in the first place. It’s time to take some responsibility (but at the same time, Greece must be highly visible and effective in its efforts to resolve its corruption and tax evasion problems, amongst other things). Germany is widely revered for its thriftiness, its mittelstand and its goods, though I would hesitate to characterise it, as Wolf does, as a hegemon, and Angela Merkel is in many ways a shining light amongst European leaders, but she also has a tendency to dither, and at the moment that is compounded by her own electoral problems.

In the third part of the book Wolf examines some solutions, combining macroeconomic and financial approaches for progress and macroprudential measures aimed at preventing a repeat. In a way this multipartisan formula could act against implementation, but it would be nice to see somebody try. Using the fable of the blind men and the elephant, he reminds us of the importance of a holistic view. Unfortunately I have the same feeling about all this good sense as I had about Vince Cable’s formulations in The Storm: it’s easy to say, but once you’re in government you find things getting in your way, and Wolf, so far as I know, anyway, isn’t even standing for election.

Cajun Music a Reflection of the People: 1 (Cajum Music, 1)
Cajun Music a Reflection of the People: 1 (Cajum Music, 1)
by Ann A. Savoy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A cultural tour de force, 23 Feb. 2015
Ann Savoy’s Cajun Music is widely acknowledged as one of the prime sources of knowledge for those with more than a passing interest in the folk musics of South Louisiana. It is invaluable as a record of conversations with some of the key figures in the movement to preserve that music, such as Dewey Balfa, DL Menard and Belton Richard, as well as with earlier musicians whose prime aim was to entertain but in so doing bridged the gap between the origins and the music as we now know it, such as Iry Lejeune, Dennis McGee and Lawrence Walker.

Equally importantly, Savoy acknowledges the inextricable link between (mostly white) Cajun and (mostly black) zydeco and creole music, with features on musicians including Canray Fontenot, Bois Sec Ardoin and Clifton Chenier. The styles we hear today around the Louisiana dance halls owe much to each other; cross-fertilisation has been an intrinsic feature of their development, and Savoy makes that plain. Back in 1920s Louisiana, when segregation was as real as a kick in the head, black and white nevertheless collaborated and formed deep friendships, with white musicians such as McGee negotiating for black accordionist Amedee Ardoin to play at white dances, the ones where, in the harsh reality of the South, the money was. Ardoin’s bandmates would, nevertheless, have to be on constant guard to protect him, often at risk to themselves, but were, unfortunately, not around the night he was finally murdered by a group of whites who took umbrage at his borrowing a white woman’s handkerchief to mop his brow.

Along with the biographies and interviews, Savoy gives some insight into what it is that makes Cajun music distinctive, the role played by the various instruments, and how the music developed during the 20th Century, from the earliest known pioneers, through the first recordings by Joe and Cleoma Falcon (women play an important role in Cajun music), and on to the 1980s, when Savoy was writing. There are transcriptions of the music of some of the standards of the genre, along with lyrics and translations from Cajun French to English.

In writing of Cajun music, Savoy does so as a significant mover herself, a musician in various groups including the Savoy-Doucet Band, the Magnolia Sisters and, with husband Marc and two sons, the Savoy Family Band. This book is a cultural tour de force, complementing John Broven’s South To Louisiana, and one not to be missed by aficionados of Cajun, zydeco or creole music. Given that it is designated “Volume 1”, it would be nice to think that Volume 2 was on its way. Thirty years on, it’s about time.

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City.
Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City.
by Bradley L. Garrett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary and fascinating, 18 Feb. 2015
In Exploring Everything, Bradley Garrett takes us into a world normally concealed from the majority of people behind fences, heavy doors or plates and security guards. Garrett and his fellow place hackers pursue the primordial urge to explore armed with cameras, imagination and no small quantities of courage and chutzpah, scaling the heights and plumbing the depths of the urban built environment. The resulting photographs on their own are a stunning document of the sights available to us in cities around the world. In London he and his crew explore both the lofty, including the then in-progress Shard, and the low, finding their way into not only abandoned tube tunnels and stations but also the deep level chambers beneath telephone exchanges, and taking an unscheduled ride on the subterranean Mail Rail.

As a work of ethnography, Garrett's writings compare well with those of Sudhir Venkatesh, whose own explorations have taken him into the world of drug dealers (in Gang Leader For A Day, and his work also features in Freakonomics) and prostitution (Floating City). Both authors, in different ways, put themselves well beyond the edge of comfort, often finding their personal safety compromised in different ways. Both also demonstrate the reflexivity necessary of any field researcher, frequently questioning their role in their chosen field, their own effects upon it, and their motivations.

Garrett, however, takes participant observation to a whole new level, not only tagging along with his subjects but also taking a leading role in organisation, planning and implementation of the place hacks. It is almost as if Venkatesh, on the day which gives his first book its title, rather than fluffing his day as a gang leader had instead ordered a hit on a rival gang and had an errant member of his own gang kneecapped. Garrett is, to use one of his own words, a provocateur. As one of his collaborators says to him, "Brad, you didn't integrate yourself into the culture; you created the culture so that you would have something to study." In years to come, if it's not happening already, academic and practical study of ethnography should be using the works of Garrett and Venkatesh as case studies to examine the various dilemmas faced by researchers in the field. At what point does the researcher become the principal subject of the research?

A key element in Garrett's motivation is overtly political. He clearly resents the strictures of neoliberal late capitalism. One of his objectives is to break down barriers, to open new vistas on the world, to see it from an angle most of us would love but lack the conviction to access. There is no shortage of people telling him that what he is doing is extraordinary and fascinating, from security guards who catch him in the act to a British Transport Police officer who confides in him as he changes the tape recording his interrogation. This latter is a part of the overkill demonstrated by the state apparatus once it has caught up with him. Garrett's crew, by his account at least, were meticulous in abiding by certain unwritten rules, which included avoiding actually "breaking" into any of their target locations. On one occasion, in Las Vegas, they are confronted by a locked door denying them access to the roof they were aiming for so turn back, only to be confronted by the security team. The security leader turns out to be friendly to a surprising extent (I'm trying not to spoil this for you), and also thanks Garrett's crew for exposing a weakness in his system. In short, they tried to avoid actually breaking the law and were in some respects performing a public service: he compares himself to a "white hat" computer hacker. What they weren't was terrorists, but the authorities, though seemingly well aware of the fact, waste time and resource on them as if they were.

It cannot be denied, however, that some arguably artificial boundaries were challenged, and that is what ultimately gets them in trouble: The Man feels threatened.

Not that their complete non-assailability is a foregone conclusion. Hence the value of the work as one for study. It raises some interesting issues, and possibly not all of the actions are "white hat". If there wasn't a little controversy and ambiguity built in it wouldn't be nearly so good a read.

Just as a footnote, I couldn't help noticing the number of typos and instances of bad editing throughout the book, important when many reading it will be unfamiliar with some of the more technical aspects of sociological discourse, which are admittedly minimal but nevertheless present. The vocabulary of sociology enables precision and conciseness of expression, and the words around it deserve care. I'm not going to go into detail, but I have to admit to a moment of despair on finding the expression "legal council". Just for once my spellchecker is completely right in querying this.

Down Fell The Doves
Down Fell The Doves
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Beguiling, 12 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Down Fell The Doves (Audio CD)
I’ve been a little besotted by this record since I bought it a couple of months ago. Originally buying it because of the Jason Isbell connection (husband and guitarist), I pretty soon forgot about him specifically apart from his signature ominous guitar lick at the beginning of Devastate, a sound always portending something bad is about to happen. The real clue that I was going to enjoy it though was hearing Shires’s fiddle on Isbell’s Southeastern, and subsequently on their joint cover version of Born In The USA, which is totally captivating. (Just to note, however, that Isbell’s guitar does for this album what Shires’s fiddle does for Southeastern.)

On this album she’d already won me over within a few opening lines, which manage to squeeze in references to yellowhammer and grackle, not something you hear every day. It’s true that there is a little studio trickery employed on this track, and some of the others, as one reviewer has noted, which made me think more of Lykke Li than Emmylou, but it’s not a case of gilding the lily so much as putting it in an interesting vase, and for me it works.

There’s an element of graveyard humour in Bulletproof which is not, as I’ve seen suggested, about her fantasising about having that quality but more about satirising the superstition, held by some, that having a tiger’s claw in your pocket can give you that quality. It’s why some fighters in the Middle East seem unafraid of standing out in the open whilst under fire. So it’s by turns funny and chilling as Shires extends the logic of the superstition from preposterous to hyperpreposterous, wondering out loud if the claw would also render her immune to knives and hand grenades too.

Further along, Wasted And Rollin’ is one of those post-drunken night reminiscences, but with some quite startling imagery and a very catchy tune. Stay is a soulful love song with a brass backdrop with a similar pedigree to Heart On A String, the Candy Staton song covered by Isbell on Here We Rest. And A Song For Leonard Cohen places Shires in a bar with the Canadian, sharing stories and laughing that they were both told (him not altogether surprisingly, she, quite amazingly) their voices would never get them anywhere.

On the strength of this, I shall be dipping into the back catalogue quite soon!

A Guide to Econometrics
A Guide to Econometrics
by Peter Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Philosophy of Econometrics, 26 Jan. 2015
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Were I beginning my study or use of econometrics today, this is not the book I would want to start with. I would leave that task up to Wooldridge’s Introductory Econometrics, which provides a far more basic view of the subject for bears of little brain such as me.

However, armed with a little knowledge, which as we know can be a dangerous thing, Kennedy’s Guide helps cut through the necessary simplifications and assumptions provided to beginners to enable a more nuanced, perhaps realistic, view. The author systematically examines the basics, identifies potential complications and pitfalls, and offers solutions.

Each chapter is divided into three, beginning with the essential understanding, progressing to a discussion of the finer points and where further information may be obtained in the academic literature, and on to an exposition of the finer technical details.

The style is unavoidably technical at times, but the author manages to avoid disappearing up his own syntax, meaning that there are no points at which it is necessary to wrangle with the intricacies of a sentence. There is also a lightness of touch to the style, combined with some occasional light-hearted, self-deprecating discussion of the perils of statistical analysis if the principles are applied unthinkingly.

In many ways what it amounts to is a Philosophy of Econometrics, examining how econometrics applies to the real world but also highlighting the possibility of its misuse in the wrong hands. Amongst other things he is quite scathing of theory-free data mining, in which a large number of regressions are run in the search for significant t stats, in which there is a high risk of type I errors (false positives).

So, while not my ideal starting point, definitely a book to be read second or, if you’re in a hurry, in parallel with a more basic text.

Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History
Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History
by Rozina Visram
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, eye-opening and more, 14 Jan. 2015
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Four centuries ago, at the beginning of the 17th Century, passengers aboard a ship belonging to the East India Company carried a young man who would be the first recorded Indian in Britain. He was soon followed by other Indians associated, directly or indirectly, with the Company, as lascars (seamen), ayahs (nannies) or servants. Rozina Visram charts the history of Indians, and in passing that of other foreign nationalities, in Britain from that period until the end of the Second World War.

It is a history marked by inequality and segregation, prejudice and mistreatment, but also often of endless hard work, creativity and heroism. Sometimes through economic or political necessity or opportunity-seeking, sometimes to gain skills to take home, and sometimes simply for want of seeing the “mother country”, Indians came to Britain, some leaving later in order to apply their skills, knowledge or political ambitions back in India, others staying and integrating as best as they were allowed into their new home.

Moral panics abounded, especially with regard to a fear of white women mixing with non-white men, and there were the usual tales of Indians taking British jobs and selling substandard goods. A reluctance by landlords to rent out lodgings to non-whites meant that what accommodation was available was substandard, and in such short supply that Indians were forced to crowd into squalid slums, upon which effect and cause were confused and this was taken to be the Indian norm: thus are myths created.

But despite this Indians thrived and made positive contributions to their new home. They became a new source for the expanding industrial working class, opened restaurants purveying exotic, novel food, and cared for the health needs of Britons as doctors and nurses, eventually to become a key component of the National Health Service. Without Indians in Britain we may never have had, or would only have had later, meals on wheels, Pelican Books and much of the knowledge we currently have of hypertension. Crucially, India itself also contributed men, women and materiel during two world wars: Visram rounds off her chapter on the Second World War with the story of Noor Inayat Khan, an SOE agent who worked with the French Resistance, and who was captured by the Gestapo, tortured, and eventually taken to Dachau and shot. For her service Khan was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French and the George Cross by Britain. Conversely, many of the lascars who perished during both world wars remain unacknowledged by the authorities, and some of those wounded as a result of enemy action found themselves without pay during their convalescence due to their inability to work.

Despite its title, however, the book only really covers 350 years of history, not 400. That’s a shame, as it would have been useful to have seen at least an overview of how the South Asian presence in Britain developed over the 60 years subsequent to the Second World War (the book was published in 2002). Apart from that, though, the only mild irritant I found, and this is purely a matter of personal taste, was Visram’s habit of occasionally posing a series of questions as scene setting for what is to come next. As the questions proliferated I occasionally found myself thinking “I don’t know. Why ask me?”

On the whole though this is a story well told, and a story which deserves to be told not only on its own merits, because it’s interesting and eye-opening, but also to redress the balance of the distorted view some people have of the Asian presence in the UK.

Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Price: £0.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A song continuing to ask some awkward questions, 6 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Born in the U.S.A. (MP3 Download)
Even Ronald Reagan would have found it difficult to interpret this as a gung-ho no-questions-asked pro-America anthem.

Shires and Isbell strip the song down to its basics so that the words, not the arrangement, take centre stage. The bitterness of Springsteen's original has been replaced by despair. But the bewilderment of betrayal remains.

Shires's fiddle plays a big part in setting this mood, but it is the clarity of Isbell's singing that clinches it.

It's still a pro-America song, but one that continues to ask some very awkward questions of those who send young Americans to war then neglect them when they return.

The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
by Owen Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Mr Jones. I mostly agree. Now, what do we do about it?, 6 Jan. 2015
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Given I agree with most of what Owen Jones says in this book, and believe much of what he reports, I wish I felt able to rate it higher, but it suffers from too many flaws for my liking, and ultimately reading it has left me feeling little better off than had I not done so.

Immediately before writing this review, I read an excellent article by Jones in which he praises Stephen Hawking en route to pointing out that every great public figure, and every great public achievement, is the product not of individual but collective effort, from Hawking’s remarkable survival, thanks in large part to the NHS, through to the creation of the NHS itself, an institution under increasing threat from a bunch of fanatics who obsess over individualism. Side-by-side was an article by James Dyson, of vacuum cleaner fame, slamming the same bunch of fanatics for their insane policies on allowing, or rather not allowing, overseas students who graduate in the UK to stay a while to apply their new-found knowledge to our collective benefit. Dyson is one of Jones’s targets, for shifting his manufacturing overseas, but as Dyson points out, conditions under the rule of the individualism fanatics are such that his manufacturing supply chain is better overseas than domestically, and if they have their way the same will soon apply to his supply of talented engineering graduates, and his R&D will have to move too. Jones’s criticism in this case is restricted to the superficial: it takes no account of the underlying reason for Dyson’s actions, nor that the two of them share a common foe.

Early on in his book, Jones traces the roots of this fanatical individualism, sometimes referred to as Thatcherism, to its origins, under the malign influence of the thoughts of Hayek, in right wing think tanks such as the Adam Smith Institute (which selectively misrepresents the philosophy of its eponymous inspiration), the IEA and the Bow Group. These “outriders”, as he calls them, were seeking to return the UK to some mythical pre-war golden age, disposing of the legacy of post-war, social democratic progress. These are the same people who, since 2008, have sought to divert the blame for the Great Recession from casino banking to public spending. In this they are aided by another section of the Establishment, the press. In order to create the material conditions for the roll out of Thatcherism the unions had to be defanged. So laws were passed and a campaign waged, often violently as in the case of the miners’ strike of the mid-eighties. Enforcement was the responsibility of another part of the Establishment, the police, who at the time were amply rewarded for their efforts. (Anyone remember ASPOM? Officially Avon and Somerset Police Operation Miner, it was dubbed by the officers themselves as Arthur Scargill Pays Our Mortgage.)The press came in handy here in demonising those the police were roughing up, promoting the Enemy Within lie. The depth of the collusion under way at the time has since been exemplified by the revelations of the Hillsborough enquiry, in which the press were complicit in a campaign to discredit Liverpool fans as without exception hooligans, drunks and thieves, in order to take the focus off a shambolic police operation.

However, Jones points out the irony that the police themselves are the subject of cuts, their former champions having turned on them now they have outlived their usefulness. Police officers now talk of striking, and there are symbolic confrontations such as that with chief whip Andrew Mitchell (go on, be honest, how many of you, even those of you who distrust the police, believed Mitchell’s side of the story?). He also points out the perverse incentives set up by the introduction of policing by objectives, with overtime exchanged for arrests, and thus an inordinate number of young people, disproportionately black, arrested for possession of negligible amounts of cannabis, criminalising a generation.

But perhaps the biggest irony Jones highlights is in the bailout, by the state, of that ultimate bastion of anti-statist individuality, the City, following the debacles of 2008. Socialism for them; Thatcherism for the rest of us. Underlying this is a cosy relationship mysteriously neglected by much of the press: I remember clearly their belittling negotiations between a Labour government and the unions as being over “beer and sandwiches”; I don’t recall a similar treatment of talks over wine and canapés. But clearly these are taking place between the Thatcherite ideologues of the coalition government, the Thatcherite outriders of the right wing think tanks and lobby firms, and the City hierarchy, often off the record and unaccountable. This preferential treatment of Establishment fellow travellers contrasts obscenely with the treatment of those at the bottom of the heap unable to find work and trying to claim benefits, demonised by, you guessed it, the press, as lazy thieving scroungers (with reference to Hillsborough, do you see a pattern developing here?), and treated as such by benefits clerks whose targets, similar to those of the police, set up perverse incentives. And whilst denying the poorest a basic level of relief, billions are poured in to Quantitative Easing, a scheme characterised by Jones as a pro-rich scam of negative benefit to the majority of the population. Instead of creating money for investment in things that matter like R&D (back to Dyson here), infrastructure (note the market failure of power generation, with talk of “brown outs” due to inadequate generating capacity, a result of the short-termism of private industry), education, a functioning health service (tried getting an ambulance lately?), or social housing, we hand money over to people who already have it to shift their activities from relatively stable government bonds to the same kinds of high-risk financial instruments that got us in the hole in the first place.

All of this and more I agree with (and have added my own garnish to, for what it’s worth). And yet, as with the rather unfair lambasting of Dyson, sometimes Jones takes cheap shots which are easily deflected. Criticising the army recruitment service, for example, because it doesn’t mention the killing and dying bit, is a little like criticising a ski resort for not mentioning that snow can be a bit slippery, and extremely patronising to the people he purports to be defending, the working class youths who comprise the bedrock of our armed forces (and always have done, as long as there has been a working class). Similarly, he picks out one part of the proposed EU-US TTIP trade agreement for (justifiable) criticism, but fails to address the potential overall benefits, or costs, of the deal. In fact he sets up the US-UK-EU relationship as thoroughly bad, which is not at all true (and I doubt even he believes it!). And what about the church? This former cornerstone of the Establishment merits a single paragraph, in the Introduction, and it is true that the church has lost much of its influence, partly due to a secularisation of UK society. And yet what is significant about the church now is the way it sometimes bites the hand of those in power, for example criticising the government, as has the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, for creating the conditions under which food banks are necessary in the UK. Perhaps he found, inconveniently, that the church, for all its toadying to the monarchy, doesn’t quite fit his thesis.

It’s a little lazy, in other words, and this is also reflected in the repetitious nature of the prose (I got particularly irritated by the number of institutions and individuals for which he considered the adjective “iconic” to be appropriate, to the point that it now irritates me when I encounter it in other peoples’ writing). I also got tired of his repetitive scene setting: there can’t be a greasy spoon caff, high-end nosh palace or any point on the intervening continuum he didn’t meet someone whilst researching the book; too many of his interviewees betray their origins through residual accents.

But the real blind spot is in his inability to propose an alternative vision. It’s clear what he’s against; less clear what he’s for. UK Uncut were great while they lasted, but where are they now? Ditto Occupy, which turned out to be not much more than a fad. Thomas Piketty, whom Jones cites, at least offers proposals for redressing the wealth/income imbalance, albeit ones that may come under the heading Utopian. Jones offers not much more than “not this”.

So sorry, Mr Jones. I am likely on your side when it comes to despising the Establishment and most of its works, but I don’t see much of a guiding light indicating how we slip their embrace.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2015 3:25 PM GMT

Gasa Gasa Live
Gasa Gasa Live
Price: £22.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous, 10 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Gasa Gasa Live (Audio CD)
The high point of my 2014 pilgrimage to Lafayette in 2014 was seeing Lost Bayou Ramblers on stage at the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles. Two days before they had played La Blue Moon and front man Louis Michot had been suffering with some kind of bug. The night before they had played until the early hours in New Orleans, so with a 1pm start at the Festival there may have been excuse for their being jaded, but excuses they needed none. They were tremendous, and some of the excitement, energy and ebullience of that performance can be guessed at by a listening to this live album recorded at Gasa Gasa in the Crescent City.

Opening with an uncompromising version of Cote Gelée, they proceed to storm through a 50-minute sample of their capabilities. Just as on their previous live album, Live À La Blue Moon, where they laid down a definitive version of the Cajun classic J'Etais Au Bal, so on this set they raise the bar for all future attempts at Pine Grove Blues. In amongst the rest is the audience singalong O Bye, which I found myself, to my own great surprise, singing along with when they played it at the Festival, and four songs from their last studio album, Mammoth Waltz. Two of these, Carolina Blues and Croche, had the hair standing up on my neck in Lafayette, and the other two, Blues De Bernadette and O Marie, demonstrate that it's not all pyrotechnics, bringing the pace down gradually and, in the finale, providing a more reflective, melancholy air.

Quoi Ca Dit
Quoi Ca Dit

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, 27 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Quoi Ca Dit (Audio CD)
The Babineaux Sisters – Julie on bass, Gracie on vocals and any other instrument you’d care to name other than drums, handled by Cameron Dupuy, and guitar, played by Maci Lopez, who also plays djembe – appeared at the 2014 Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette just before Lost Bayou Ramblers, providing a sweet aperitif to the Ramblers’ spicy entrée. Mostly Cajun in flavour, but with creole ingredients (Gracie attributed to zydeco star Cory Ledet her taking up of the accordion), the songs are uniformly gorgeous, and the instrumental at the end, Lover’s Waltz, all you could ask for a tune of that title: dreamy, romantic, lilting.

This record would do most musicians proud, but it misses some of the gems available from seeing the band live, such as Marley’s Three Little Birds and Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, both in French, and both sounding quite different from more familiar versions, especially Hendrix’s Watchtower. It also comes in at only 25 minutes, which is all right for the price you’d pay for it in their native Louisiana but you’re going to have to feel a real need to pay the Import price.

I admit that’s cheaper than the air fare, but if you can combine the shopping with a visit to one of their performances you’ll have yourself a bargain.

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