A brief history…
Born in 1935 in Evangeline Parish, Morris Ardoin is the oldest son of legendary Cajun/Creole musician Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin. He began learning to play music at thirteen years old by listening to his cousins and has been going strong for over 60 years now. Although many people know him as one of the last Louisiana Creole fiddlers, few have had the opportunity to see him as the accomplished accordionist and singer that he is. At long last, here is the chance to get an up close and personal look at his unique recordings which include timeless renditions of many well known Creole songs as well as several new songs written by Mr. Morris himself.
Blues Rag – April 2005
Morris Ardoin “Le Tracas de Morris” (Maison de Soul Records) and
Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp “Creole Stranger” (Swallow Records)
Somehow, all of life’s joys and bitter sweetness get seemingly compressed into the rough-cut gems that are Creole accordion-fiddle tunes. Take the legendary duo of “Bois Sec” Ardoin and Canray Fontenot, whose squeeze-and-saw attack could alone do more emotionally than full bands could muster with all of the additional horsepower. That famed team, however, belongs to the ages. Thankfully then, at age 70, Morris Ardoin is still mining those rustic diamonds, just like his father did. And having hooked up in collaboration with fiddler/vocalist Dennis Stroughmatt, a similar two-man rapport is developing. At long last,Le Tracas De Morris is viable, danceable proof. They immediately engage, like sparring serpents – twisting, turning, entwining, looping, and re-looping around each other’s lines. It’s all in the moment too, with Morris calling audibles right there on the line behind his heaving accordion, flashing his partner the “go” sign for flying off on another solo. Their French hollers manage to squeeze out some extra mourn for a blues or stretch for that added shot of fire on a two-step. Sometimes the clang of a triangle will chime along, and the acoustic chop of guitar makes frequent rhythmic accompaniment. Yet it’s the Ardoin-Stroughmatt engine that throws the sparks from “Le Blues A Whiskey” until finally flickering out on the wheezy vamp through the “Bars Of the Prison’s” first gear grind. There’s a whole neo-traditional camp of young bloods who painstakingly study and strive to achieve for what passes as something so naturally effortless as breathing for Mister Morris. Cut after cut crystalizes into an instant party – without ever intentionally trying.
Left to his own devices, Dennis Stroughmatt tends to refurbish old Creole and Cajun tunes with a fresh coat of paint and some updated bodywork. So Amede Ardoin’s age-old “Blues A Basile” gets massively inflated into something worthy of any booming dancehall. Nathan Abshire’s newly redisigned “Bayou Teche Blues” cranks over well. “Suzy Q” shoves along with tremendous new-found momentum beyond Boozoo Chavis’ original means. Even the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” becomes re-colored in murkier, spookier shades than Big Joe Williams could have dreamed. But the Illinois native can also solidly build his own compositions from traditional and contemporary parts. Both a snaking “Morris Ardoin Blues” tribute and the mood piece which lurks somewhere ’round midnight, “Creole Stranger”, confirm that. To make it all happen, Stroughmatt himself pulls double duty on both lead accordion and fiddle in his forward-thinking crew, Creole Stomp. Electric guitars slide, slur, peck, and twang. Big basslines go bump through the night. And, for added oomph, both drumkit and a tireless rubboard provide double-barreled kick. There’s no shortage of power or drive for their debut collective work. That’s made especially evident when barren songs introductions literally explode behind the punch of a band in full roar. Clifton Chenier’s “I’m Coming Home” and the swamp-pop ballad treatment of “This Burning Desire” finally afford dancers the greatest chance to catch a breather and nuzzle close.
By Dennis Rozanski