Did you know that Creedence Clearwater Revival wasn’t actually from the South? No, Fogerty’s parents actually hailed from Great Falls in our own fair state. That is, before they hauled the kids to California. Clearly, Great Falls is the exact opposite of “the bayou” (as in “I was born on the...”), and California, well, that state’s generally disingenuous population may well have driven Creedence to create the down-home, swamp-rock, lookin’-out-my-backdoor image that served them so well during the anti-establishment ’60s.
But the fact that Creedence, whose entire catalog is basically an ode to (and a contrivance of) the rural South, weren’t actually from the place they were idealizing is both utterly moot and incredibly irritating. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter where you’re from; you love what you love. On the other hand, Creedence was lying; Fogerty was born on an Air Force base, not the bayou.
But that’s OK, because ultimately, Creedence didn’t really sound like a Southern swamp-rock band. They were a rock band with a great singer who wrote great songs that were more of an homage to his favorite music than a reflection of it.
A real swamp-rock band sounds like Kelly Thibodeaux and the Etouffee Band. Led by the talented Mr. Thibodeaux on fiddle, the Etouffee Band is a pure Cajun dream, swirling boogie, rhythm and blues, and Southern rock in a pot and serving a heaping helping of something spicy. Like Cajun food to this Northerner, I’m not quite sure what it is, but hell, it sure ain’t bad. And that’s good. CMJ magazine, as “from back in the deepest part of the swamp.” The Etouffee Band can evoke Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, due to the interplay between Thibodeaux’s fiddling and guitarist Gator John Fohl’s tasty slide work. When the violin and a slide guitar go head to head on songs like “Slo Mo Monkey,” the result is just as satisfying as “Freebird.” And it goes without saying that the guilty pleasure of “Freebird” is absent the cultural baggage with “Slo Mo Monkey.”
Bolstered by Natty Bumpo on bass, Brad Rosen and drums and Skip Jones on piano, the Etouffee Band is a strong and deft unit, serving as a platform for Thibodeaux’s fiddle work. But the band, like Southern cooking, is comfortable working with the array of possibilities that Cajun culture can offer. And if Thibodeaux is the head chef, he clearly counts heavily on the contribution of his partners in the Etouffee Band.
That’s probably what swamp rock, Cajun culture, Thibodeaux, and the Etouffee Band are all about: taking a variety of cultural impressions and liberally tossing them into the same stew to see what happens. And in that respect, nothing is really pure, and being born on the bayou is as much matter of imagination as of fact.
Kelly Thibodeaux and the Etouffee Band play the Top Hat this Friday, Jan. 28 at 9:30 p.m. Cover $3.