June , 1992
By Cheryl Harris
Cajun Meets Country – and Rocks!
While Evangeline stood like one entranced,
For within her
Olden memories arose,
And loud in the midst of the music
Heard the sound of the sea…
- From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline,” Acadian maiden whose unrequited love is documented in said epic; and also the source from which this band derived its name.
First you take five ladies chock-full of musical talent, bewitching harmonies, and assorted backgrounds. Then enter them in the Marlboro Talent Round-Up, New Orleans Jazz Search, and Tru-Value Country Music showdown (where they come out winners, hands-down), then add a liberal splash of Cajun spice, and what do you get?
Evangeline, of course!
Hand-picked by Jimmy Buffett as the first act signed to his newly-formed Margaritaville Records — distributed through MCA Nashville — Evangeline will be spending the upcoming summer months as the opening act on Buffett's extensive '92 tour.
Their self-titled debut is a mesmerizing blend of country, folk and bluegrass, yet the ladies don't hesitate to rock out a bit, too. Evangeline is given added personality by the fact that vocals are shared by not one but four band members — acoustic guitarist Kathleen Stieffel, bassist Sharon Leger, keyboardist Beth McKee, and guitarist Rhonda Bolin Lohmeyer. The remaining portion of the band is made up of Nancy Buchan on fiddle and mandolin, along with drummer and token male Dudley Fruge.
Jam Magazine caught up with vocalist Kathleen Stieffel just prior to the start of the tour, and she was literally oozing enthusiasm. "We're so excited we're about to explode, and having so much fun it ought to be against the law!" exclaimed Stieffel. "It's really great getting so much support from Jimmy, too, he's like The Godfather, kind of like our den mother, and he's always been there for us."
The tour, which started in Richmond in mid-May, is currently scheduled to run past Labor Day.
"We'll be busy girls this summer, out in the heat and humidity," Stieffel giggled, "it's great for my new hairdo —gives it that certain fullness!"
With their career just taking off, it's no surprise that plans are full-steam-ahead for shooting a video for Evangeline's first release, "Bayou Boy."
"We'll be shown playing in a club, to give the video that live feel," Stieffel explained of the upcoming shoot. "And then there will be shots of the bayou scene, and the male lead will probably be played by some gorgeous hunk we'll never even lay eyes on except in the videos."
In addition to Evangeline's own brand of creativity on this release, their sound is blended with inspiration gleaned from artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and even Roseanne Cash. Yet one of the most unique numbers on the release is Van Morrison's "Carrying A Torch, "and it came about in an unusual manner.
"Jimmy pitched it to us," Stieffel stated. "He sent us a tape with several songs on it, including 'Rhumba Girl' and 'Carrying A Torch.' He allowed us a lot of creativity and decision making on the album. Our original material is recorded exactly the way we wrote it, and even though there were times we worked with someone else's material, he still encouraged us to use as much original work on the album as possible."
In addition to the radio-ready "Bayou Boy," it's hard to overlook "Hey Rene," a rowdy, foot-stomping tune heavy on the Cajun theme. These bayou girls are products of a heritage steeped in not only Cajun influences, but jazz and R&B as well. One can't help but wonder, however, how the Parrot Heads (Buffett fanatics) will react to Evangeline.
"They'll probably ignore us, or at least try to," laughed Stieffel. "But I don't think they'll be able to, 'cause we're gonna play loud and fast, and I think they'll enjoy it"