OFFBEAT Magazine review: Jazz Fest editionMay 4, 2012
Kristi Guillory is known throughout Acadiana as a precocious Cajun-French musician with formidable academic credentials and responsibility for fronting Bonsoir, Catin, the leading female Cajun band to emerge from the past decade in Acadiana. She’s been writing Cajun-French tunes since childhood, having been one of the few fortunate musicians of her generation who grew up speaking the language, and some of her songs are already becoming part of the traditional Cajun-French repertoire.
You might expect her first solo album to include a few of her favorite obscure Cajun tunes, some new French-Cajun compositions, and maybe a couple of honky tonk-flavored numbers for a change of pace. Guess again. Broken Glass comes tearing out of the box on an insistent rock beat and whiplash alt-country electric-guitar lines, muscling its way through half a dozen of Guillory’s Southern-fried/alt-country compositions.
When the proceedings give way to a restrained, respectful take on the über-traditional “Tennessee Waltz,” the song seems like a strange choice until you hear the lines, “It’s stronger than drink, and deeper than sorrow / this darkness she left in my heart,” and everything falls into place. This is Kristi Guillory’s “coming out” party—her first attempt at songwriting in English in a contemporary mode, and she succeeds beyond expectation. The songs are well-made, simple, direct and unflinching, while their wild-and-woolly settings—presented here in a slightly rough mix—suit them perfectly. Drawing on traditionally dark themes of love, loss, despair and death, the whole is held together by Guillory’s unvarnished, alto-register vocals, plainly dressed and rendered with a slight air of detachment.
The six songs range in subject matter from anxious introspection to the presence of mortality and the very real dangers of working on the Gulf Coast’s offshore drilling rigs. They stand up extremely well to repeated listening, as Guillory’s compelling voice consistently strikes the tone halfway between confession and observation. Given her gruff alto, folk-rock inspiration, and keen eye for detail, it seems only natural to hear in what is clearly an auspicious debut something like a nascent Lucinda Williams arriving on the Cajun scene, only one with fewer pretensions, barely a trace of blatant commercial ambition, and far-more-solid grounding in musical craftsmanship. Based on these accomplishments, it’s safe to say that Kristi Guillory clearly holds the potential of one day becoming a significant Cajun singer-songwriter working in a contemporary, alt-country/indie-rock mode.