The music of Louisiana has a lot in common with the cuisine. An initial blast of heat usually commands attention right off the bat, but then -- slowly, but surely -- all sorts of subtler notes start to creep in, making for an irresistibly captivating experience. Thats the vibe that emanates from The Red Stick Ramblers, an appropriately-named aggregation that builds stylistic bridges spanning the decades -- not to mention connecting styles as diverse as traditional Cajun, western swing, blues and old-school jazz.
"From day one, we were just interested in all sorts of music, from Django Reinhardt to Duke Ellington to the Cajun stuff that a few of the guys in the band grew up around," says Mississippi-bred guitarist Chas Justus. "We never put any limits on what we listened to or what we played. "At first, we didnt think that hundreds of college kids would come out to hear that kind of music, but when we added a little extra drive to it with a drum kit and all, it was really a revelation to see how contagious it could be."
On Made In The Shade, the Baton Rouge-based quintets fourth album -- and first for Sugar Hill -- the Ramblers romp and stomp through a crazy-quilt of originals and classic covers with the high-octane energy that could only come from a band accustomed to keeping dance-floors jumping for hours at a time. From the kick-up-your-heels raucousness of "Laissez Les Cajuns Danser" (which positively bursts with both local pride and universal merriment) to the smooth, slinky swing of Count Basie and Jimmy Rushings "Evenin," the band conjures up a mood thats both heady and heartfelt.
"The common thread is that its all dance music," fiddle player Linzay Young says of the genre-jumping nature of the Ramblers repertoire. "Three hour dances are not uncommon where we come from, and were there to please the dancers, so its less like a performance and more like a party and youre the entertainment. We could probably pull out a hundred or so songs on a given night if we had to."
A dozen of those find their way onto Made In The Shade, with tracks like a souped-up version of "Some of These Days" two-stepping with originals like the wickedly wry title track -- which Young says was inspired by both George Joness "White Lightning" and the real-life moonshine-distilling adventures of a Louisiana pal.
The Red Stick Ramblers first scooted out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- where Young, Justus and drummer Glenn Fields were studying at Louisiana State University -- about eight years ago, suits crisply pressed and bows rosined-up and ready to rollick. They quickly developed a following around the Gulf Coast region thanks to their unflaggingly energetic live shows, and spread the message even more widely with the 2002 release of their self-titled debut album -- a disc that brought them the tag "the great Cajun hope."
The Ramblers certainly demonstrated the musical firepower to don that mantle, but deftly sidestepped the pigeonhole it threatened to place them into on their sophomore outing, Bring It on Down. That disc, which nodded to forebears like Bob Wills and Johnny Cash, prompted the New Orleans Times-Picayne to tout them for proffering "a potent brew that swings so hard that its almost sick, and rocks like crazy."