Sweet Cecilia
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Sweet Cecilia

Cecilia, LA | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Cecilia, LA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Folk Americana


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"OFFBEAT Magazine"

The late Al Berard shed tears of joys the first time he heard his daughters and niece singing angelically together. And for good reason, Laura Huval and Maegan Berard, along with first cousin Callie Guidry, have an uncanny chemistry with their gale force harmonies.

On its eponymously titled debut disc, producer Joel Savoy captures Sweet Cecilia’s raw emotion well. It’s often powerful. It seems that these women simultaneously channel the same emotions into a single, high-voltage current.

While blood harmonies are the common denominator, there’s some vocal distinction between the trio—Callie with her deep and sturdy pipes, Megan with airborne, pop-edged stylings and Laura falling somewhere in between, though closer to Meagan.

While they sing and harmonize as if their lives were dangling by a thread, their debut is also a very daring but honest one of no-holds barred original material. With no covers to hide behind, they sing of failed relationships, life’s ugly hardships and standing up for who they are. They’re not afraid to profess their spirituality but do so in a non-proselytizing manner.

Most songs were written in the past few years. The oldest, “Broken Fences,” was co-written by Laura and her father a dozen years ago when she was too independent for lasting love. - OFFBEAT Magazine

"Mysterious "Lady" stirs emotions in Sweet Cecilia"

On a fall night in the early 1990s, musician Al Berard and his family were driving on I-10. The Berards were returning from the Superdome, where they cheered on the Cecilia High School football team in the state championship.

But Berard's young daughters, Maegan and Laura, saw a ghost-like figure in the road made them forget about football. Strangely, their parents never saw a thing.

"Laura and I saw this woman in the median," said Maegan. "She was glowing, but my parents did not see this woman. Laura and I did not talk about this woman until we were older, a good five or six years later.

"I told Laura I thought it was a dream. But she saw it too. My parents didn't see anything. It was crazy. I will never forget that day. I can still see her so vividly."

The glowing woman has earned a permanent place in music. "The Lady" is the first song on the debut and self-titled CD of Sweet Cecilia, an all-female trio that includes the Berard sisters and their cousin, Callie Guidry. The 12-song CD, which features all originals, is out on Old Man Records, the record label of the now-deceased Al Berard. - The Daily Advertiser

"The Curious Corners of Regional Identity"

Growing up in the small town of Cecilia (in Saint Martin Parish) means deep immersion by osmosis, at minimum, in South Louisiana’s French dialects and the musical continuum of Cajun/zydeco/swamp pop. Many fine practitioners of these closely-related genres live in this community and play such music there often — but this only applies tangentially to the trio known as Sweet Cecilia. Their exuberant debut, Sweet Cecilia, (Old Man Records, www.sweetceciliagirls.com) features robust and deftly-executed vocal harmonies, with alternating lead vocals that are all equally pure and powerful, thus creating a rich contemporary folk sound — for lack of a more precise term — not typically associated with the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. The unadorned instrumental accompaniment — mostly noticeably guitars, a mandolin and a snare drum — helps direct listeners’ attention to the album’s all-original material. Several songs’ lyrics focus on the staunch faith in Catholicism that is prevalent in South Louisiana. Significantly, the group’s members — sisters Laura Huval and Maegan Berard and their cousin Callie Guidry — first sang together in their church choir. They chose the band’s name in dual tribute to their home town and to Saint Cecilia, Christianity’s patroness of musicians.
Sweet Cecilia’s main musical influences, however, are decidedly secular. These sources of inspiration include the ‘70s rock band Heart, led by the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson (famed for such mega-hits as “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man” and “Barracuda”); the ‘90s country duo the Judds (“Why Not Me,” ”Mama He’s Crazy”); and the trio Wilson Phillips, who topped the national pop charts in 1990 with “Hold On.” As the daughters of a member of the Beach Boys and two members of the Mamas and the Papas — masterful harmony singers, all — Wilson Phillips functioned as second-generation bearers of family tradition. Such terminology is more commonly used in discussing folkloric music than pop chart dominance, but in this case the family tradition that Wilson Phillips maintained is thriving in Cecilia, Louisiana, some 25 years later.
Sweet Cecilia makes a powerful debut indeed. To get the full effect, though, it is necessary to catch Sweet Cecilia in live performance. The band’s free-flowing sets, covering nearly 60 years of music, may encompass a French version of “Time of The Season,” by the British Invasion band the Zombies; “Cry To Me,” an R&B gem popularized by the passionate singer Solomon Burke; Fleetwood Mac’s pop-rock “Say You Love Me”; “Walking After Midnight,” a country hit for Patsy Cline; and a South Louisiana perennial favorite, Cookie and the Cupcakes’ swamp-pop classic “Got You On My Mind.” All these songs, and many more, are played with Sweet Cecilia’s equal blend of passion and polish.
Sweet Cecilia’s live performances also reveal Maegan Berard’s prowess as an electric-guitar soloist. She likewise plays this role (and is additionally one of several lead singers) in the Grammy-nominated Cajun band Bonsoir Catin. Berard’s guitar heroes are serious rockers, including the virtuosic Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin, and Ace Frehley, from the shock-rock band KISS. In this regard, as a proud practitioner of Cajun music who also loves to rock out, Maegan Berard carries on the legacy of her father, the late Al Berard. A skilled multi-instrumentalist and a beloved figure on the South Louisiana music scene, Al Berard, known to all by his nickname “Pyook,” passed away in 2014. As a leading member of such popular Cajun bands as the Basin Brothers and Filé, and an accompanist and/or collaborator with dozens of other Cajun artists dating back to 1983, Berard is strongly identified with Cajun music. He left behind a prolific body of Cajun recordings.
But Al Berard started out in music as a rock guitarist and, while continually expanding his command of diverse styles, he never set anything aside. Just before his death, Berard finished recording a guitar album that he’d been working on for decades in his home studio in Cecilia. Released posthumously as a loving tribute, Incredible Journey (Old Man Records, www.alberard.com) is a multi-layered and often ethereal collection that gives Berard unlimited space to stretch out and revel in what brought him joy: tinkering with far-flung original works-in-progress, experimenting with the sound of his guitar heroes (most notably Eric Johnson of “Cliffs of Dover” fame), reworking some Cajun songs by the Basin Brothers, and more. Berard’s life and legacy will be celebrated on Saturday, November 28 at the Al Berard Music Festival, held in Henderson, Louisiana (details, as they become available, will be posted at www.alberard.com).
In closing, this column mourns the passing of Jillian Johnson — a beloved musician (a founding member of the popular Lafayette-based band The Figs), artist, entrepreneur and a general force of nature — who was murdered in the Lafayette movie theater shooting of July 23. She is sorely missed by many.
Ben Sandmel is a New Orleans-based freelance writer, folklorist, and producer and is the former drummer for the Hackberry Ramblers. Learn more about his latest book, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, by visiting erniekdoebook.com. The K-Doe biography was selected for the Kirkus Reviews list of best nonfiction books for 2012. - LA Cultural Vistas

"There's Much to like about these women from Cecilia"

n my years as a writer, I’ve made factual mistakes, misspelled words and headlines, had grammatical errors, misidentified people in photos and more. There’s always a loud and proud choir of observers ready to read me the riot act or do a happy dance on my journalistic sins.

But when things go right, few people say anything. Even fewer take time to write that they liked a story or column.

I’m not talking about a text or quick email. I’m talking about putting pen to paper, placing that paper in an envelope, adding a stamp and dropping the letter in the mail.

Last April, I received such a rare, handwritten note, written on bright, green paper. The note read, “Dear Herman, Thank you so much for the amazing and heartfelt article. We really appreciate it. Hope to see you soon. Love, Sweet Cecilia.”

I was a Sweet Cecilia fan before the note. I’m an admirer for life now.

I keep their note on my cubicle wall. It’s my reminder to get up, after the times I slip and fall.

There’s even more to like about this all-female trio, named after their hometown in St. Martin Parish and the patron saint of musicians. Sisters Laura Huval and Maegan Berard, and their first cousin Callie Guidry, play and harmonize a sugary mix of folk, country, Cajun and rock ‘n’ roll.

Their self-titled, debut CD from last year features 12 original songs, including “The Lady,” a vision seen on a late-night drive along Interstate 10. Their Catholic devotion is unmistakable in “Heaven,” “Saints Song” and “Sweet Love of Jesus.”

But the trio doesn’t shy away from life’s blues in “Hard Pill to Swallow,” “Tell Me What to Do,” “Broken Fences” and “Out of Sight.”

Since last spring, Sweet Cecilia has earned high-profile gigs at Bach Lunch, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Later this year, they’ll sing the National Anthem at Downtown Alive! and participate in three gigs at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles.

Many will see what the fuss is all about when Sweet Cecilia visits the sold-out Acadiana Roots music series Aug. 20 in the Daily Advertiser’s Community Room. This evening of music and conversation offers a chance to learn the stories behind the music and lives of these generous souls.

If you haven’t been to our Acadiana Roots series yet, you’ve missed unforgettable moments with Connie G, Roddie Romero and Eric Adcock, Marc Broussard and Cupid. Last month’s show was particularly surreal.

Cupid had a packed room laughing and dancing long before closing with his 3-million seller, “The Cupid Shuffle.” Just minutes after joyous show ended, details of the unimaginable - a theatre shooting, just a mile or so down the road – started trickling in. The shock turned to deep sadness when news broke the next morning that Jillian Johnson, a friend to many in music and the arts, lost her life in this senseless act.

Sweet Cecilia was booked in early June, well over a month before the tragic event of July 23. But their soothing sounds at Acadiana Roots on Aug. 20 will help ease the pain.

Herman Fuselier is music and entertainment writer for the Times of Acadiana and Daily Advertiser. Contact him at hfuselier@theadvertiser.com. - Daily Advertiser


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