Despite temperatures that can melt straw hats, the fiddling, singing Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil says it’s cool to play music in the Louisiana heat.
“Everybody is out there in it together, so that makes it better,” he said.
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Lafayette’s two-time Grammy-winning, 12-time Grammy-nominated Cajun band, is a veteran of the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, staged this weekend at the Old U.S. Mint.
The festival is likely the hottest of the many festivals around the world where BeauSoleil appears.
Following BeauSoleil’s Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival show — 3:15 p.m. Sunday on the Barracks Street Stage — the band’s summer touring will take it to the Rochester International Jazz Festival in New York, South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Festival, Ireland’s Galway Arts Festival and England’s Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Cambridge Folk Festival.
More U.S. dates follow BeauSoleil’s British Isles tour, including an Aug. 10 show with Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va. BeauSoleil’s guest contribution to Carpenter’s Grammy-winning “Down at the Twist and Shout” helped make the song a big pop and country hit in 1991.
BeauSoleil has 37 years of music history, but Doucet was a bit weary of traveling after the band’s 25th anniversary tour in 2001.
“I was getting kind of burned out,” he recalled. “But then you get this rekindling thing. You’re fired up again. It gets to be more fun because we still make people happy.”
The band’s recent tour of Alaska included a show for 1,700 at the Alaskan Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage.
“Which was amazing,” Doucet said. “And then we played little dances in places you can only get to by boat or plane. That’s what I really like, because I can relate to the audience. That’s what makes the music. It’s a great practice of being in the moment, mindful of where you are and who you are and who they are.”
BeauSoleil never works from a set list of songs.
“I have to remember what we did on certain albums,” Doucet said. “They all covered different feelings and genres. So it’s wonderful to Rolodex that in my mind and bring out things that are good for a place in time. It’s never the same.”
The Nashville-based Compass Records released BeauSoleil’s 25th album, “From Bamako to Carencro,” in February. It features the band’s interpretations of jazz giant John Coltrane’s “Bessie’s Blues” and James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.” The Brown selection was inspired by a concert Doucet attended in Lafayette in 1965.
“My sister, who is four years older than I, took me to see James Brown,” he said. “I was never the same.”
As far as Doucet knows, BeauSoleil is the first Cajun band to perform a Coltrane composition.
“It’s a way for us to show our appreciation for a master,” he said. “We can interpret John Coltrane’s music, enjoy it and make him an honorary Cajun.”
Doucet, a major participant in the small grassroots group that spearheaded a Cajun renaissance in the 1970s, was Cajun before Cajun was cool.
“That was a magic time, but a time that could have gone either way,” he said of those early efforts to revitalize Cajun culture.
“It could have fallen off the Earth. This culture was put down when I was growing up, but now people are embracing it. People are moving to Louisiana from other states just to be part of this.”
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