Feb. 19, 2016 10:57 AM

By the time she recorded 1994’s Réveille: The New Cajun Generation (Swallow Records), Kristi Guillory — then only 15 — had been called the best emerging Cajun star by Zachary Richard, written some 80-plus songs and started on a traditional Cajun career that continues to this day. Here she looks back on Réveille, her debut album.

Was there anything unusual about the recording of that album?
Bill Grass and I had met in 1991 and began playing several gigs together as a duo. Like me, he was a young Cajun musician obsessed with his music and finding success in the Cajun music circles. Bill was from Baton Rouge, so he would often travel to Lafayette to play gigs with me or I would go to Baton Rouge to play with him. When we started making the record, Réveille, with Terry Huval, our intention was to make a duo album. However, I had started a regular group named Réveille here in Lafayette and asked Horace Trahan, my brother Craig Guillory, Doug Belote and Jamey Bearb to join me. What started out as a duo record really grew into a band album, the very first recording for most of us.

Looking back on that album, was there anything that made it special or different from your previous records or records you have made since?
Of course it is special because it was the first recording that any of us made. At the time, Horace wasn’t playing accordion out front as much. On this recording he is playing acoustic guitar and singing and Jamey hadn’t been playing fiddle very long. Doug Belote, the drummer on part of the record, wasn’t really playing much Cajun music at the time. This album also premieres some very early songwriting from me, the tracks “Valse de Bayou Anglais” and “Une Affair a pu Finir.”

Do you have any memories of the recording sessions that stand out?

I remember being amazed by Terry Huval’s ADAT recording equipment. This was my first time in a “studio,” which actually was the second floor of Terry’s house. If I remember correctly, he was also learning how to engineer so he could do more work himself on the Jambalaya recordings.

What was your favorite song off the record? Why?
My favorite song is “La Valse de la Grandmere,” written by Annette Huval. The song is beautiful lyrically and musically. It was very special to me at the time because I had lost my grandmother right before I started playing Cajun music. I always knew that she would have been head over heels over what I had accomplished in a short time. “La Valse de la Grandmere” is definitely the ‘hit’ off this record. It won several Cajun French Music Awards awards that year. I remember when I first heard the demo that Terry made to pitch it to me, I cried.

What was your least favorite song off the record? Why?
I think my least favorite track is a song that I wrote called “Une Affaire a pu Finir.” I think the writing is fine, although the lyrics are pretty self-indulgent and juvenile. What mostly bothered me about it is that the track really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. I don’t think I really understood the concept of making a record that is a congruent group of songs. To me, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The funny thing is that I think that track got a lot of radio play, probably because it was so different.

What would you do differently if you could do it all over again?
I would have made Jamey Beard sing on this record! He didn’t turn to vocals until we made the second Réveille installment in 1996. Who knew he would grow up to be such a powerhouse!

How would you describe it to someone who has never heard it before?
Young Cajun hopefuls woodshedding.

For you, what made that record worth reflecting on?
We were so young at the cusp of some great art to come. The entire process was magical because it was so new to us. I remember the places we used to gig that are no longer around, the older dancers and musicians that used to enjoy us and cheer us on that are no longer with us. Listening to it, for me, is like opening up a high school yearbook where all your friends were in their 60s, 70s and 80s.


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