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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

RENE LACAILLE

By TOM ORR
Published January 25, 2006

Mapou
Riverboat/World Music Network

Heard any good albums by accordion players from small islands in the Indian Ocean lately? Here’s a great one. Rene Lacaille was last heard from on Digdig, a dandy fusion disc with genre-jumping guitarist Bob Brozman. With Mapou he shows us the rich and varied musical traditions of La Reunion Island. But besides being a skilled accordionist and guitarist, he’s a true musical explorer, finding the common ground between the Afro-Euro-Asian rooted Reunion styles of sega and maloya and the sounds of the French Caribbean, chanson, Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, Bollywood and beyond. Lacaille sings in a dry cabaret deadpan that emphasizes singer/songwriter intimacy, though both the vocal and instrumental pieces here are loaded with hooks. Foundations of loosely grooving percussion textures bolster ballads, jazz-inflected jams, songs that mix humorous and ominous tones and assorted meditations on Reunion’s Creole culture. There’s far more going on than can be neatly summed up here, and it grabs you from start to finish.