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Zachary Richard
Coeur Fidele

Zachary Richard Cap Enrage
Both titles from Select Records (

Everyone interested in the struggle for the soul and heart of the North American continent should own these two fiery albums. And study them well.

Ralph Zachary Richard has built a dramatic dual career over the past three decades. On the one hand, he's been a country-tinged, cosmopolitan Cajun accordion player, known for good times zydeco party records like Zach's Bon Ton (Rounder). But the Louisiana-born Richard also established himself as a militant champion of North American French-language culture, settling for years in Montreal close to the enduring flame of Francophone separtist nationalism. Some of his best songs reflect that rebellious ideal.

On this pair of CDs, Zachary Richard eloquently sketches the historical and social context of both his youthful rage and his lasting reverence for the culture of L'Acadie, the stolen-but-never-truly-lost homeland of the exiled folk who came to be known as Cajuns. Indeed, Richard's song, "Petit Codiac" on Cap Enrage reminds us of the origins of the name Beausoleil. It was the proud nom de guerre of a historic Acadian warrior who fought back against Anglo tyranny and forced exile. Michael Doucet, an old musical comrade of "Zack" Richard, well knew the political connations when he named his now-famous band BeauSoleil. In this song, Richard proudly sets the name Beausoleil alongside that of Crazy Horse, Jackie Vautour and other indigenous and Acadian rebels.

There is little of Richard's trademark raucous accordion on these albums. He now lives mostly in Quebec, and has quipped that it is too cold there to fall down in the snow after partying in early Spring. Instead, Zachary Richard has turned his lilting voice and strong guitar to exploring the historical and spiritual struggles of a culture and a people long repressed but never crushed.

On the song, "Massachusetts," Richard looks at the painful theme of assimilation. A troubled Francophone man named Jean (could he be the late novelist, Jack Kerouac?) becomes an "Americain" and turns his back on his heritage of "pea soup in the kitchen and them Frenchies in the shack." He seems to gain only alienation, alcoholism and anger in the bargain. "Massachusetts" is a very sad song, as are several on these albums, but Richard's also offers joyous tales of pride and celebration, and of dancing in the widely-scattered French communities of North America, despite all the troubles they have seen.

These are brilliant, stirring albums. Zachary Richard has become one of this continent's finest popular poets, and a world-class, proud champion of the beauties of French and working class cultures. - Bill Nevins


CD available directly from the artist

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