Yes, it is cliché to describe something from Southern Louisiana as "gumbo," but it is also so, so apt. Gumbo, if I must explain, is a spicy stew made with seafood, meat, celery, onions and other root vegetables. Most important are the bitter okra leaves that draw together the dish. Likewise, Cedric Watson, an East Texas native and Southern Louisiana transplant, pulls in the various musical genres that snake around that region—blues, accordion-based zydeco and even a dash of R&B. What makes gumbo so dynamic is that it mixes but doesn't necessarily blend flavors and tastes; which, applied to Watson's music, means that none of the genres stand front-and-center, but instead share a rambunctious stage; call it an orchestra of "swamp pop."
Self-described as an ambassador of Creole culture, Watson is both an accomplished fiddler and accordion player, not to mention blessed with a plucky and chirpy voice as enticing as a nightingale. On Sunday, he wraps up the Sunday Free Concert Series at the Les Schwab Ampitheater.
This year's Sunday Concert Series has enjoyed a particularly strong, vibrant lineup. If there was a theme, at its best the series showcased young musicians who are "up-cycling" classic genres into contemporary, enjoyable and boisterous songs: Sallie Ford & The Noise Outside (who played mid-June) is led by the singer with a voice as strong as an opera diva's, and brings back strong rockabilly; the Tumbleweed Wanderers (played early July) filter Wilson Pickett and Marvin Gaye soulfulness through contemporary pop; and, this week's installment, Watson, blends spicy Louisiana folk music with squawking accordions and ripping fiddles. Yeah, it has been a good summer so far.