Dec. 1, 2015 12:36 AM

Alphabet

Debbie Fleming Caffery

FALL LINE PRESS

This delightful little addition to the coffee table is simply and starkly about the joy of a well-wrought image — and the drunken wonder of a child seeing something new and mysterious that lies in that nether place between dream and fitful sleep. Caffery’s collection started as an alphabet book for a grandchild. Thankfully it became an alphabet book for us all — an embossed, cloth-covered hardback with a voluptuous jacket; 26 photos from Caffery’s considerable archive because, d’uh, letters. It is a multi-purpose book, too: a collection for the photography lover and a practically-perfect-in-every-way introduction for young children to the magical dialogue of things and language. The photos, all of them, are gorgeous — black-and-white with the rich conversation between light and shadow characteristic of Fleming’s work. But these images sometimes correspond to their letters only indirectly, giving the viewer pause before a satisfying “a-ha!” “That must be a villain in the mirror because he’s opposite the letter V.”

Everything about Alphabet is beguiling. It is ageless and for all ages.



The Legend of L’il Red

Zachary Richard, with illustrations by Sarah Lattès

UL LAFAYETTE PRESS

From its opening line — “The hurricane was on the coast, holding the world by the scruff of its soggy neck.” — Zachary Richard, with the aid of capable, playful illustrations by his French stepdaughter, Sarah Lattès, takes young imaginations on a sally with a blind turtle and a one-clawed crawfish who find each other in the tempest, and they just survive, damn it, they survive.

Richard tells the tale in the voice of the raconteur, winking and rhythmic, with the sing-song ease of telling great, sweeping and soulful stories that is Richard’s most basic thing — in his songs, his poems, his personal crusades. The story was conceived many years ago when now-adult Lattès was a girl, and a father’s tenderness threads its way through the tale of L’il Red and Hopewell Green. And Lattès’ illustrations — they look like digitally manipulated watercolors on card stock — are up to the telling.

Spoiler alert: L’il Red and Hopewell end up OK, but not before an Aesop’s Fable of an adventure and a supporting menagerie worthy of the best in the genre.

What doesn’t Zachary Richard do well?



Way Down in Louisiana:

Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop Music

Todd Mouton

UL LAFAYETTE PRESS

In a quarter century of writing about South Louisiana music as a journalist, curating and programming concerts as a producer, rhapsodizing about it as a radio host, promoting it as an impresario and musician himself, Todd Mouton had to pop. This book could not have not happened.

A dozen artists are profiled in the colorful, graphically engaging and photo-heavy pages of this book — through anecdotes, asides, scenes and recollections, Way Down in Louisiana is a masterful turn in storytelling, long-form journalism and love letter to the widest margins and the nth degree.

Most are contemporaries bending boundaries and inspiring dancers in Acadiana and beyond — Sonny Landreth, Steve Riley and Bonsoir, Catin. Some, like proto Cajun rock band Coteaux, are defunct legend. Only one — Chenier — is dead. His name stars in the subtitle because he is one of those lodestones — the lodestone, maybe — that attracted a world of music enthusiasts beyond Louisiana’s borders hungry for the authentic even while he made us gaze in on ourselves. The self-reflective explosion of creativity and cross-germination that rippled out from Chenier’s shadow across the fretboards, froitoires and bellows of South Louisiana is considerable and remarkable.

There were many before Chenier, but then there was Clifton, and Mouton easily captures this essential sample of our indigenous music from just past the mid-point of the 20th century to the honky-tonk next Saturday night.



In the Creole Twilight:

Poems and Songs from Louisiana Folklore

Joshua Clegg Caffery

LSU PRESS

A founding member of the famed Red Stick Ramblers and later a Grammy-nominated songwriter and sideman with Feufollet, Joshua Clegg Caffery was best known as a musician before he effortlessly slipped into scholar and folklorist and turned his gaze to the songs, storytelling and poetry of Louisiana’s indigenous cultures. In the Creole Twilight draws from the bayous’ oral traditions and enduring folkways — the tropes, meters and forms — to create original poems in an original voice that is clearly studied yet utterly authentic.

A native of St. Mary Parish — his mother is celebrated photographer Debbie Fleming Caffery whose praises are sung above — Caffery recently settled in Lafayette with his artist wife, Claire, and their two young children. (The illustrations for In the Creole Twilight are Claire Caffery’s and they’re marvelous.) After earning a Ph.D. in English and folklore at UL Lafayette, an Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies at the Library Congress in 2013-14 led to Caffery’s first book, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Collection. With this new work, Caffery banks on the book-learnin’ to withdraw art, and it’s worth every penny.

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