Statistics are not available to determine just how many 14-year-olds have played with their own band at Jazz Fest, but I’ll wager not many. Cameron DuPuy and the Cajun Troubadours opened the Fais-Do-Do Stage on the first Saturday of Jazz Fest with a rousing playlist of traditional French sounds from Acadiana.
Cameron’s YouTube videos taken in his home playing accordion alongside father, Michael, on guitar had given me all I needed to know that this kid was the deal. My first live sighting of the group was at the Festival Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette last October. At Jazz Fest 2012 not only did we see the band on stage, but father and son were interviewed up close and personal by Kevin Fontenot on the Heritage Stage after their set.
It is no accident that the kid can play. His father played in the band for his cousin, Bruce Daigrepont, for several years, and Michael’s brother, Chris, plays fiddle in the band. Michael founded the original band, but attrition took its toll, and the band fell into languor. Cameron took up the accordion at age eleven, and within a year and a half, the Cajun Troubadours emerged from the doldrums with new life and Cameron out front.
Other members of the group include Murnel Babineaux on steel, John Dowden on fiddle (a talented accordionist as well), and Michael on bass and vocals.
Their authentic French music is delivered in traditional style, and the lyrics are soulfully wailed in French by Michael with help from brother, Chris. Cameron likes popular music, too, but his focus is on Cajun. No, it’s not Zydeco. It’s pure Cajun.
Although many not thoroughly familiar with Louisiana think of New Orleans as a Cajun place, the true Cajun music comes from the plains of Southwest Louisiana. The Cajun Troubadours hail from the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, far from the rice and cotton fields where the music was born. Michael’s father moved to New Orleans from Avoyelles Parish when Michael was a youngster, and a little bit of the Cajun culture made the trip with them. During Hurricane Katrina the DuPuys evacuated to Lafayette, during which time Cameron became introduced to the Cajun culture and its music.
Jazz Fest 2012 is Cameron’s first, but it’s not his first rodeo. He has played with the Pine Leaf Boys, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Ganey Arsement and the Lakside Gamblers, and with Bruce Daigrepont. Cameron has also performed with his teen contemporaries from Lafayette, Fiddler and accordionist Luke Huval, and fiddler, Zachary Fuselier, as a trio at Festival Acadiens et Creoles in 2011, and last week at Festival International.
As a group the Troubadours have played the Liberty Theatre in Eunice, the Mountain View Folk Festival in Arkansas, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, and many more.
New Orleans has produced a horde of fine musicians, so Cameron DuPuy is not easily found in the crowd. What sets him apart is the music that he plays. It is truly Cajun in sound and spirit, played with vigorous respect for the past. As the renaissance of Cajun music and culture swells, with it comes a new star.
With only 14 years under his belt, the young player will face many challenges to his innocence in the coming years. Show biz and limelight can yield both good and bad, but for my money, there’s a bright future for this gifted musician and his band. Michael is a player in his son’s band, but he is still the father, and his guidance is reflected in his son’s performance and demeanor.
Presently, the star must be driven to his gigs because he’s too young to drive. I predict that he’ll be driven to his gigs in the future, but not for lack of a driver’s license.