BEFORE Beausoleil's encore at the Birchmere last fall, fiddler/leader Michael Doucet told the crowd, "This is the oldest song we'll play all night; it's an old French dance tune from the court of King Louis XIV." With that, the band launched into a zydeco-stomp version of "Louie Louie."
If the fiddle is going to remain a contemporary instrument, more fiddlers will have to adopt Doucet's irreverent attitude toward folkie purism.
Doucet and several band mates from Beausoleil joined such special guests as guitarist Richard Thompson and John Hiatt's Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth on a convincingly rocking Cajun album, "Michael Doucet & Cajun Brew." As he sings "Louie Louie" and "Wooly Bully" in French, Doucet plays his fiddle with the same aggressiveness as the electric guitars and saxophones around him. Although it's not as satisfying as Beausoleil's brilliant "Bayou Boogie" album last year, "Michael Doucet & Cajun Brew" is sloppy, inspired fun -- and a revelation about the untapped potential of the fiddle.
On her debut solo album, "Too Late to Cry," fiddle champion Alison Krauss brings the bluegrass fiddle into the progressive-country movement, much as her studio musicians, mandolinist Sam Bush and banjoist Tony Trischka, have with their instruments. It helps a great deal that Krauss has a lovely, expressive country voice and an exceptional songwriter in John Pennell, who wrote six of the album's 10 songs. It's as if Nanci Griffith could back up her vocals with fiddle solos that were every bit as lyrical.
The 10-times all-Ireland fiddle champion Seamus Connolly takes a more traditional approach on his debut solo album, "Notes From My Mind." No less than 30 traditional instrumental tunes (plus one original) are grouped into a dozen medleys; Connolly's copious liner notes explain how he learned each one from an older traditional musician. Connolly displays bravura technique, but he's tasteful enough to forgo excessive embellishments in favor of strong, vocal-like lines.
MICHAEL DOUCET & CAJUN BREW --
"Michael Doucet & Cajun Brew" (Rounder 6017).
ALISON KRAUSS --
"Too Late To Cry" (Rounder 0235).
SEAMUS CONNOLLY --
"Notes From My Mind" (Green Linnet SIF 1087).
Doucet, Krauss and Connolly join fiddlers Kenny Baker, Claude Williams and Joe Cormier Sunday night at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall. Doucet performs with Beausoleil Monday at the Twist & Shout club in the Bethesda American Legion and at the Birchmere Tuesday and Wednesday.