July 1, 2013 06:00 AM

New music and literary releases from Acadiana's best help guide us through summer.


Monday, July 1, 2013
Written by Walter Pierce

Just a Soul

It's easy to forget - or ignore - the world of alternative rock and other styles often relegated to the backwaters of this roots rockin', chanky chankin' wonderland. But yonder comes Kingdom to remind us that it's OK to rock the hell out of things, to take a blazing guitar lead and to nail the high note on vocals, to let it hang out. You know what "it" is.

These guys rock, no question, and their new 11-track record, Just a Soul, is the forensic evidence. Somewhere east of Kansas and north of Styx, Kingdom plays intricate, hook-laden progressive rock reminiscent of a lot of great bands of yesteryear, many of whom, sadly, went synth-soft as gravity took its fretful toll: Heart and the aforementioned Styx chief among them. But Kingdom ain't gonna do that, y'all.

Led by vocalist (and multi-instrumentalist) Kelly Keeling and guitarist and principal songwriter Kim Roy - approximating a ringer (sans the goober countenance) for Dana Carvey's Garth in Wayne's World, no lie - Kingdom moves effortlessly from stadium anthems to hard-hitting ballads to face-melters on Just A Soul.

Check out their website - TheBandKingdom.com - for more on buying the record and upcoming shows.

Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie
Darrell Bourque
UL Lafayette Press

UL English professor emeritus and former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque's work has always been an easy albeit profound read: starkly and existentially rigorous observations cast in lovely, simple language that, were it not for the stanzas and line breaks of poetry's architecture, could serve as gorgeous, silken prose.

In Megan's Guitar, the poet turns his gift to his Acadian ancestry - to both the now of living in South Louisiana and to the upheaval 250 years ago that led to it. The 57 poems are divided into a triptych: "Acadie Tropicale," about the contemporary and local; an eponymous bridge - the book's cover art, maybe coincidentally but probably not, was done by Lafayette artist/graphic designer Megan Barra - and "Acadie du Nord," which as the heading suggests is an elegaic collection of sonnets for Cajuns' forebears evicted at musket point from Nova Scotia in the 18th century.

In "Beausoleil Leaves New Orleans" from the latter section Bourque channels the determination borne of anguish as the newly arrived settlers, tossed between indifferent shores after the deportation, look west from New Orleans: "What they all saw was that the sky was blue here as the sky was blue in Acadie. And what they all knew was that the body was a sieve for pain, that whatever had to pass through it would pass through it, and what had been true about them before they left was true now too, but deeper ..."

Les Cadiens et leurs ancêtres acadiens: l'histoire racontée aux jeunes
Shane K. Bernard
Translation by Faustine Hillard
University Press of Mississippi

A French translation of historian Shane K. Bernard's informative and well-told history of Cajuns was long overdue. Originally published in English in 2008, this account for middle- and high school students, complete with deft illustrations and other historical images, traces the 400 year history of the modern Louisiana Cajuns from their earliest European origins, emigration to Nova Scotia, deportation and the diaspora that brought many of them to South Louisiana.

Bernard effectively and evocatively brings to the page the centuries-long slog, from the creative folkways that made them adaptable on difficult land to the state-supported program of muscling and cajoling these independent-minded Francophones into the American mainstream in the  early to mid 20th century.

The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust
By Sue Schleifer
Journeys Press

Author Sue Schleifer has been a student of Zen for more than a decade, introduced to it by her now-husband, Mark DeWitt, the Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at UL Lafayette. In The Key to the Castle, Schleifer sets her mind to telling, plainly and without grand gestures, her story of self discovery.

It's a travelogue to be sure, but much less about the culture and topography of far-flung places as it is about inner travel: becoming familiar with the craggy shoals and meandering planes of the spirit. And this is where Schleifer, a former contributing writer to The Ind, excels. Indeed, the author brings us on a journey from the Himalayas to the former Soviet Republic and points between, but it is Schleifer's journey to her inner mind that is at the heart of The Key to the Castle, and Schleifer's facile prose and willingness to bare herself make for a delightful travel companion.

The Garth Alper Trio

Pianist Alper takes the listener on a sally through modern jazz in inarguably its purest presentational form: the piano trio. Alper is the head of the music department at UL, and his craftmanship on these 11 tracks reflects both a deep understanding of this American curiosity and an eagerness to explore, and the musicianship is steadily stellar.

For aficionados, Deflection is a study in style, form, composition and, most especially, interplay and communication between musicians and their instruments. You can almost hear the eye contact and telling nods exchanged during the recording of the record.
Yet for the casual jazz fan, Alper's finely wrought compositions speak to an encyclopedic knowledge of the form that is modern in outlook, reverent of the past and always comfortable in its skin. Bob Nash's bass and Troy Breaux's drums form a fluid rhythm section playful with grace notes and the cadences of Alper's piano.

Were he not occupied shepherding jazz students to the rolling blue pastures, Alper would no doubt have churned out more masterful records. Deflection is his third, and it's a charm.


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