Singer-fiddler Anya Burgess performs with two Cajun bands, the all-female quartet the Magnolia Sisters and the mostly female, six-member Bonsoir, Catin.
In December, the Magnolia Sisters and Bonsoir, Catin received Grammy nominations in the best regional roots music album category. Another Cajun act, Jo-El Sonnier, is nominated in the same category. That means three of the five best regional roots music album nominees are from Acadiana.
Burgess’ two nominations mean she’s competing against herself. She learned about them via the flurry of text messages she received while working at Sola Violins, her violin shop in downtown Lafayette.
“Both bands were texting,” she recalled. “They had just found out. I was in shock.”
Burgess’ 2015 nominations — for the Magnolia Sisters’ “Love’s Lies” album and Bonsoir, Catin’s “Light The Stars” — are her second and third nominations. She was previously nominated for the Magnolia Sisters’ 2008 album, “Stripped Down.”
“Having one band nominated is a huge honor,” Burgess said this week at her other business, the workshop in Arnaudville where she repairs bowed string instruments and builds violins. “Both bands nominated in the same year is just incredible.”
When the three Cajun music nominees are added to Breaux Bridge native Hunter Hayes’ nomination for best country solo performance (“Invisible”), Acadiana is well-represented this year at the Grammy Awards.
“It brings deserved attention and recognition to the Cajun music world and the Acadiana area,” Burgess said.
Hayes, the previous recipient of four Grammy nominations, will host this year’s Grammy Awards premiere ceremony, streamed live from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at GRAMMY.com/live and CBS.com. The pre-primetime TV broadcast announcements include the best regional roots music album category.
“That’s great because he’s not going to mispronounce the names of the Cajun bands,” Burgess said.
Burgess believes the international popularity of Cajun music increases the chance a Cajun band will win this year.
“The thing we Cajun bands have going for us is that we travel a lot,” she said. “We play huge festivals and there are Cajun music fans all over the country and the world.”
The Magnolia Sisters and Bonsoir, Catin will attend the Grammy Awards. Saturday, the two bands will perform at the 9th annual Only in Louisiana Grammy brunch, hosted by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne at the Conga Room. Other brunch performers include Sonnier and Grammy-nominated New Orleans native and rhythm-and-blues star Ledisi.
“In the Grammy Awards’ 57 years,” Dardenne said, “there have only been two years in which a Louisiana artist hasn’t been nominated for an award, a real accomplishment for a state our size. In addition to being the birthplace of jazz, we are home to the best zydeco, swamp pop, blues and Cajun musicians in the world.”
“It would be amazing to come home with a Grammy award, something I never imagined,” Burgess said. “Someone said something to me the other day. ‘Life has exceeded your expectations.’ That’s so true.”
In addition to performing with the Magnolia Sisters and Bonsoir, Catin, Burgess is half of a traditional Cajun music duo with Kristi Guillory, one of her Bonsoir, Catin bandmates.
“The Magnolia Sisters resurrect old material, freshen it up and put it into a four-piece band format,” she said. “We do ballads, early Cajun music, similar to the material Kristi and I do in our duo. Bonsoir, Catin is more of a dance band, more progressive Cajun music.”
Originally from the Boston area, Burgess moved to Louisiana in 2000 after she joined Teach For America. Following two years of service in St. Landry Parish, she chose to stay in Louisiana. Her likewise talented husband, Richard Burgess, plays fiddle, guitar and banjo. The couple has two children, ages 3 and 7.
Burgess opened her Sola Violins shop in November. Located in the historic Gordon Hotel, it serves bowed string instrument players of all stripes, from symphony hall to Saturday night fish fries. Curious passersby who don’t even play violin, viola, cello or upright bass visit the cozy space just to look around.
“When people see a rack of violins hanging together in the cypress and mahogany cabinets, even if they don’t play, they recognize that’s beautiful.”