The Creole Belles are stepping out with a long-awaited debut CD on Arhoolie Records. The California based all-women band is well known in the Cajun music scene for bringing the raw, driving authenticity of southwest Louisiana dancehalls to their shows.
Produced by the Belles and Greg Landau, who has produced Susana Baca, Pete Seeger and many others, and mastered by two-time Grammy winning engineer John Greenham, the Creole Belles’ self-titled CD was released by Arhoolie on April 1st, 2008.
Popular zydeco musician and Louisiana native Andrew Carrière is a regular special guest and contributes Creole French vocals and some powerful accordion to the CD, as exemplified in the medley of tunes learned from his late father, legendary fiddler Bébé Carrière of the renowned Carrière Brothers from Lawtell, Louisiana. Andrew and many people from southwest Louisiana emigrated to California in the last half century and brought their music with them, inspiring a new generation of California musicians like fiddler Delilah Lee Lewis and accordionist Maureen Karpan to travel to Louisiana to learn to play the music.
The new CD showcases the dynamic collaboration between Andrew’s soulful Creole roots and the Belles’ heartfelt expression of the music they have embraced over the years.
The Belles have performed up and down the West, including
- Bayou and Mardi Gras Festival, Long Beach, CA
- Boogie on the Bayou Festival, Campbell, CA
- West Coast Live Radio, live at the Freight, Berkeley, CA
- McCurdy Pavilion, Port Townsend, Washington
- Whistlestop Festival, Toppenish, Washington
- Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center, Nevada City, California
- Palms Playhouse, Davis, California
- Crawdad Festival, Isleton, California
- Sweetwater Saloon, San Rafael, California
- La Bouchon Bastille Day, Yountville, California
- Lincoln Theater, Yountville, California
- Down Home Music Accordion Festival, El Cerrito, California
- Ashkenaz Music and Dance Cultural Center, Berkeley, California
- SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Francisco, California
- Biscuits and Blues, San Francisco, California
- Don Quixote’s Music Hall, Felton, California
- Adams Avenue Roots Festival, San Diego, California
- Short Grass Music Festival, Cimarron, New Mexico
~The Creole Belles musicians~
Delilah Lee Lewis, fiddle & vocals
Maureen Karpan, accordion & vocals
Karen Leigh, guitar & vocals
Julay Brooks, stand-up bass & vocals
~for a bigger sound when requested, the Belles feature~
Andrew Carrière, vocals, triangle, rubboard, accordion
Myrna Cooper, rubboard
Sam Siggins, drums
DELILAH LEE LEWIS (FIDDLE) The Creole Belles are distinguished by the high-energy, traditional fiddle style of Delilah, who has been playing Cajun music for the 27 years. She moved to Eunice, Louisiana in 1982 to study this music while working as Director of Nursing at Heritage Manor Nursing Home in Crowley, LA. She was there for almost three years where she spent much of her time playing fiddle and studying with many of the great Cajun and Creole musicians including Denis McGee, Wade Fruge, Canray Fontenot & Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin, Dewey Balfa, the Carriere brothers, Marc & Ann Savoy, and Michael Doucet. She sat in with and played occasional gigs with Beausoleil. She was on faculty at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, 2000, in Port Townsend, WA with her great friend and teacher Danny Poullard.
MAUREEN KARPAN (ACCORDION) Maureen has been playing Cajun accordion since 1992. For seven years she led the Bay Area Cajun band Frog Legs. She has spent months at a time in Louisiana to play Cajun music, but her main teacher and mentor has been the late great Danny Poullard, who moved from Lousiana to California as a young man. Besides Danny, Maureen’s teachers have included Marc Savoy, Bois Sec Ardoin, Jesse Lege, Dirk Powell and Preston Frank. She also plays with the Bay Area band Courtableu and has made guest appearances with the All Star Cajun band and the Zydeco Flames.
KAREN LEIGH (GUITAR) Karen has been playing traditional rhythm guitar since 1974, including times with Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and Danny Poullard at national festivals. Karen’s dynamic guitar playing has provided the backbone to many bands including The Ethnophonic Orchestra and Kenny Hall’s “Long Haul String Band.” She has performed with, among others, the Horseflies, the Savoy Family Band, and Doc Watson. Karen has been on faculty at events throughout the U.S., including the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, MerleFest, and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.
JULAY BROOKS (ACOUSTIC BASS) Julay brings a lifetime of musical experience to the Creole Belles. She studied classical piano for 20 years and now teaches 50 students in Piedmont and Oakland. She plays and sings with the Cajun band Midnite Ramblers as well as bluegrass, country, Western Swing bands including The Honky Tonk Dreamers, La Bolshevita, and Brooks & Diamant.
ANDREW CARRIER (VOCALS, TRIANGLE) From Lawtell, Louisiana, accordionist and singer Andrew comes from a long family tradition of music. His father was the legendary Creole fiddler “Bebe Carriere,” his uncle was accordionist Eraste Carriere, and cousins Chubby, Calvin and Roy Carriere are very popular zydeco players in Louisiana. Andrew moved to the Bay Area in the ’60s, learned accordion from the late Danny Poullard, and is a featured vocalist on California Cajun Orchestra’s CDs. He plays regularly with the Cajun Classics, the All Star Cajun band, and Suzy and Eric Thompson. Andrew has been our “Special Guest” for so many years that our band name could be, “The Creole Belles with special guest Andrew Carrier.”
MYRNA COOPER (RUBBOARD) A seasoned bay area musician, Myrna has performed with many of the Bay Area’s finest including LeRoy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners, Tee Fee Swamp Boogie Band, Gator Beat, Wayne DelaCruz, Darnel Gill, Richard Walton, Billy Dunn, Pamela Hawkins, Alvon Johnson, Executive Suite, Big City Review, No Mercy Band, FunniBone, RoShamBo, Tabu, Kinky Machine, A Few Good Men, Reggae Angels, Ricardo Scales, and EC Scott.
And on our first CD:
KAREN CELIA HEIL (ACOUSTIC BASS & FIDDLE) Karen Celia, longtime Bay Area music veteran, played acoustic stand up bass with the Belles for many years. Karen learned how to play Cajun second fiddle directly from Sadie Courville, Dennis McGee’s longtime musical partner, and on our recording she joins Delilah on old style twin fiddle tunes. She currently plays old-time music with the Knuckle Knockers.