A blog about the special cultural, but little known, aspects of New Orleans.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Lost Bayou Ramblers win Grammy for best regional roots
By Keith Spera, New Orleans Advocate The Lost Bayou Ramblers are having second thoughts about their planned hiatus. A Grammy win will do that.
Last week, members of the adventurous contemporary Cajun band announced that, after 20 years of almost non-stop touring and recording, they’d take an extended break starting in May.
But on Sunday in New York, the Ramblers’ eighth album, “Kalenda,” won the Grammy Award for best regional roots music album.
“We had decided on the hiatus even before we got the nomination,” fiddle player Louis Michot said Monday. “We were not expecting to get nominated, and especially not to win. Now we’ll have to reconsider.”
They may push back their break until the fall, to reap the benefits of the publicity windfall from the Grammy win.
“You can’t deny that,” Michot said. “You’ve got to do what comes naturally, and do what the universe is telling you.
“Which is what we’ve done since the beginning. We’ve been doing it naturally for 20 years. We’re going to keep going with what comes naturally. If the universe doesn’t want us to stop just yet, we can’t deny the universe. But there’s definitely a hiatus coming.”
Led by Michot and his accordionist brother Andre, the Lost Bayou Ramblers are a Cajun band that is rooted in tradition but progressive by nature. As evidenced by “Kalenda,” with its electronic percussion and other contemporary flourishes, they are unafraid of innovation. All the band members except the Michot brothers live in New Orleans.
They were first nominated for a Grammy 10 years ago. They fared better this year than other nominees with strong ties to south Louisiana.
Dwayne Dopsie lost out to the Ramblers in the regional roots music category. PJ Morton, the St. Augustine High School graduate who plays keyboards in Maroon 5 and crafts his own albums of contemporary R&B and soul, lost to Bruno Mars, the night’s big winner, in two R&B categories.
South Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth didn’t win for contemporary blues album. Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now,” much of which was recorded in the Uptown home studio of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, didn’t win for best alternative album.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers received their Grammy during an afternoon ceremony before the televised portion of the show began.
“You don’t want to get your mind set on winning. You’re there for the experience,” Michot said. When presenter Zac Brown “started to say ‘Kal…,’ I thought, ‘That’s not us.’ Then people start yelling, and you hop out of your seat, and there’s lots of action and noise.”
All five Ramblers took a turning speaking from the podium; Louis Michot delivered part of his speech in French.
They were then ushered to the press room to pose for photos. Afterward, legendary producer and composer Quincy Jones rolled up alongside them in a wheelchair.
“He gave us a nod. ... That was the ultimate Grammy experience for us,” Michot said.
He and his bandmates hoped to grab a celebratory drink before the start of the televised show. But they were told they didn’t have time. “We just won a Grammy, and we can’t leave and have a drink somewhere?” Michot said.
So over the course of the telecast, the individual Ramblers slipped out to an Irish bar near Madison Square Garden, where they watched the Grammys on TV and toasted their win.
The celebration capped off a whirlwind weekend. They performed last Thursday in New Orleans and Friday in Crowley, then drove to Houston to catch a flight to New York. On Saturday at noon, they performed at B.B. King’s club in Manhattan as part of a showcase presented by the Lafayette tourism board, which also funded their trip to New York.
During his first foray to New York City, in 2002, Michot busked on the streets. The Ramblers’ earliest gigs in the Big Apple were “subway tours,” as they hauled drums, fiddles and an upright bass around town on the subway.
Now New York is the band’s strongest market outside Louisiana. They’ve progressed “from the streets to the Grammys,” Michot said. “It only took 20 years.”
The Ramblers come home on Thursday to headline the “Save Our Sponge” concert, a benefit for the Woodlands Conservancy, a group that works to preserve south Louisiana’s coastal woodlands. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. benefit concert at the New Orleans Jazz Market, 1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., start at $25; go to woodlandsconservancy.org for more info.
Michot said he’ll likely display his Grammy atop an old cypress spice rack that he’s converted to a trophy case at his home in Arnaudville, a one-stoplight town along Bayou Teche northeast of Lafayette. “It’s not going to be on my living room table or anything like that,” he said.
“I’m still in a little bit of shock," he said. "It’s been a huge weekend. It’s going to take time to process.”