Cajun musician extraordinaire Jo-El Sonnier pays tribute to his heritage in his 1999 CD release Cajun Blood. The album is dedicated to his mother and father, who raised their family near Rayne, LA, deep in Cajun country. It was there that the young Jo-El Sonnier was steeped in the traditions of his culture and started playing the accordion at the age of three. Now a master of the instrument, Sonnier is a favorite of audiences all over the world who enjoy his special brand of traditional Cajun music. He is known for his singing as well as his playing -- he was honored at the 1999 Golden Music Awards as male vocalist of the year. Sonnier brings those talents to bear on Cajun Blood, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2001 as Best Traditional Folk album. The recording opens with the title track, sung in French, and closes with another rendition of the song in English. Being bilingual is an option that Sonnier can now freely exercise. Cajuns have left behind the past oppression they endured, first in France, then in Canada, and finally in Louisiana, where they were shamed and punished for practicing their language and ways. Always, the proud Cajuns resisted attempts to destroy their culture. Today that culture is recognized for its unique contributions by mainstream society, affirming the pride Cajun people always have had in their heritage. Sonnier is ably assisted on the CD by musicians including Waylon Thibodeaux and Kenny Sears on fiddles, Brian Langlinais and Joe McMahon on guitars, and Joe Wright on pedal steel. Together, they perform traditional favorites, such as the "Allons a Lafayette"; standards, including D.L. Menard's signature tune, "The Back Door," Lawrence Walker's "Yo Yeux Noir," and Nathan Abshire's "Valse de Bayou Teche"; as well as songs penned by Sonnier himself. As the recording ends with the English version of "Cajun Blood," listeners are left knowing why those who carry Cajun blood are so proud of it.
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AllMusic Review by Rose of Sharon Witmer