review


If you want to find out more, much more, about Cajun music from 1928 through 1960, do yourself a favor and read the blog Early Cajun Music.  One song is treated in each posting, taken from the author’s 78 collection.  It’s still new, starting up in August 2014, and I really hope it will be kept up.  The author is anonymous, but maintains several other Louisiana-related blogs.  Links are well chosen, for artists and songs, usually pointing to Wikipedia and YouTube recordings.  Lyrics are given in French or English, from the original.  There may also be photos of artists and old 78s.  And each post contains footnotes, so you can learn more!  If you are at all curious about Cajun music’s past, this a great place to go.

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Bought a new 33 LP the other day from an artist I know well, Wayne Toups, but haven’t seen before. Toups has been around for quite a while, and is best known for his rock and roll-influenced Cajun music, with his band ZydeCajun.  He’s a crowd pleaser and knocks ’em dead at live performances.  Lately he’s turned more toward traditional music, with the 2005 D&R Records release, Reflections of the Past.   But back in the 1970s his band was the Crowley Aces.  He recorded for the Kajun Records label, owned by Jay Miller.   Sam Charters recorded this, and many other folk and blues albums, for the European Sonet label.  These tracks are all over the map, with original and traditional numbers.  The cover art looks like somebody’s idea of  south Louisiana who’s never been here.  And love the back cover photos with long hair and big, pointy shirt collars.

Side one
1. Cajun disco (2:14)
2. 99 years waltz (3:11)
3. Bosco blues (3:39)
4. Country gentlemen (2:48)
5. The Cajun paradise (2:40)
6. Black bayou (3:11)

Side two
7. Lafayette two step (2:47)
8. Family waltz (3:04)
9. O. S. T. special (3:16)
10. Midnight waltz (3:31)
11. Think of me (3:08)
12. Musician’s paradise (3:16)

Wayne Toups, accordion and vocals
Richard Comeaux, steel
Wilton Babineaux, violin
Jo-El Sonnier or Sam Charters, guitar
Don Guillory, drums
Mark Miller, bass

Recorded at Master-Trak Sound Recorders, Crowley, Louisiana, March 20, 1979.

The excellent blog Where Dead Voices Gather has an article on “C’est Si Triste Sans Lui (It Is So Blue Without Him)” as performed by Clemo [sic – Cleoma] Breaux with Joe Falcon and Ophy Breaux.  “Clemo” was how the recording was originally labeled; it’s not a mistake of the blog writer.   As previously mentioned, this blog explores, song by song, the seminal Harry Smith’s LP “Anthology of American Folk Music.”   The recording was recorded in Atlanta on April 18, 1929.   For biographical information on Cléoma Breaux, see the entry on “Le Vieux Soulard Et La Femme.” For biographical informatiom on Joseph Falcon, see the entry on “Acadian One Step.” For information on Ophy Breux (and the other Breaux brothers), see the entry for “Home Sweet Home.” Cleoma and Ophy were brother and sister.  Cleoma and Joe Falcon recorded the first commercially successful Cajun song, “Allons a Lafayette” [in the second half of the rather long page there’s an MP3 of a 78.]

There’s a web site that has collected lyrics to numerous Cajun songs, called simply CajunLyrics.  The home page lists the most recently-added lyrics, the most-viewed lyrics,  and the most-commented lyrics.  A small Acadian flag marks French-only lyrics, an American, English-only, and a dual flag, French and English lyrics.  A French flag signals European French music.    One can also browse by artist and search by title words.  Each of the lyrics has been viewed several hundred times, so this is obviously a useful resource.  The copyright statement is 2007-2009, so presumably it began in 2007.  There’s a beta version of a French-language interface.   There’s a long list of requested lyrics with song title and performer.   The Radio link pops up a new window with links to five online sources:  Cajun Fest Radio, Cajun Music Radio Network, Gumbo Radio, KRVS 88.7 (FM Lafayette), and Radio Louisiane.  The Shop links to a t-shirt site.  And the Links section brings up a rather jumbled list of sites united only by being Cajun and French-language related.

The performer is given for each song, but not the recording from which those lyrics are taken.  This could make a difference when looking at multiple versions, such as Nathan Abshire’s Pine grove blues.  The use of accents in French lyrics is inconsistent, likely because different people are entering lyrics.  There are also numerous advertisements, though no pop-up ads that I found.  Comments include English lyrics for French and alternate versions and corrections.  One must register to add lyrics.   The alphabetic browse lists performers by first name, not last, so that “Al Berard” is next to “Aldus Roger” in the A section.  As a librarian, I’d expect them to be alphabetically by last name.  Also song titles include the initial article, “Le,” etc., forcing lots of things together that shouldn’t be.  Searching is on substrings, so a search on “le” brings up every word with those letters in that order.  And search results aren’t entirely in alphabetical order by title.   Search titles and performers are clickable, which is a good feature.   Some performers have photos and links, including personal sites and YouTube videos.  In all I give it an “Eh Bien” rating, not a “Tres Bien.”

Leon Chavis and the Zydeco Flames played last night (June 3, 2010) at Rock ‘N’ Bowl in New Orleans, LA.  I got there at 8:30 p.m., just before the first number to a fair crowd.  Chavis is a young man, and the band consisted of electric guitar and bass, keyboards, rubboard and drums, besides Chavis on accordion.  During the evening he played primarily Cajun accordion but switched to a double-row for a couple of songs.  At least one person thought he was Boozoo‘s son and another, grandson.  I didn’t talk to him and haven’t found out since.  He played and sang well, even switching to keyboard at about 11:15 p.m., right before I left.  The repertoire was pretty standard, with old and new songs, including the obligatory Beau Jocque “Cornbread.”  And he played two waltzes!  Many of the younger guys don’t know even one.  There wasn’t much in French, unfortunately.  Geno Delafose is still king of French zydeco.  During one song I caught a bar or two of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher;” many zydeco artists love to incorporate r&b and reggae. Dig this recent photo of Chavis.  The rubboard player and Chavis swapped vocal chores.  It was a solid performance, pleasing the crowd, which kept getting larger and larger.  At one point a bus disgorged its cargo of new Tulane University students, who had their own dance styles.   There was no break–at least until I left.  That’s not unusual, but must be hard on the band!  They were kind enough to send me home with their CD, The Heat Is On.  It’s got 12 cuts of all original songs.  Thanks!

This video isn’t the best quality, but it does introduce each band member: 

BeauSoleil closed out the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo yesterday in New Orleans.  They were joined by Tab Benoit, and a final jam with George Porter, Jr. (of the Meters) and other musicians.  The set ran a little over an hour, and was punctuated with numerous exhortations and caustic comments about the BP oil spill, currently fouling Louisiana waters and marshes.  BeauSoleil consists of Michael Doucet on violin and vocals, his brother David Doucet on guitar, Jimmy Breaux on accordions, Billy Ware on percussion, Tommy Alessi on drums, and the newest member, Mitchell Reed on bass and violin.  BeauSoleil recorded many albums with Sonny Landreth on electric guitar, before he left the group a few years ago.  Landreth didn’t sing with BeauSoleil, and his guitar work did not dominate the band’s sound.  BeauSoleil has always seemed to work to balance the members contributions.  Michael Doucet leads on violin but there’s always solos from the rest of the band.   Benoit joined the group a little more than halfway through the 75 minute set.  The songs he played were not Cajun standards, and I assume they were his originals.  The set list included:

  • Newz Reel (from their Grammy-winning CD L’Amour ou La Folie)
  • Donnez-moi Pauline (Give me Pauline)
  • Sud de la Louisiane (The South of Louisiana, Alex Broussard song about the wonderful animal life in Louisiana, preceded by negative comments from Michael Doucet about the fouling of Louisiana by BP)
  • I spent all my money loving you (Bobby Charles song, on their CD Alligator Purse, performed differently from the CD, e.g., no organ)
  • L’Ouragon (The Hurricane, from the CD La Danse de la vie)
  • The Problem (from Alligator Purse, with the chorus “the man at the top has got to go.”)
  • Tab Benoit joined band for a few songs, including:
  • My bucket’s got a hole in it (Hank Williams)
  • Not Fade Away/Iko Iko (big final jam with Porter, etc., from their CD Bayou Cadillac)

My photos of the day are now available on flickr.

BeauSoleil was in fine form as usual.  Michael Doucet performed his usual wonderful violin parts, swooping up and down the scale, always in perfect rhythm.  Mitchell Reed joined BeauSoleil before the 2009 Jazz Fest, primarily on bass, but often playing twin fiddles with Doucet, always a real treat.  Doucet used two beautiful violins on stage; some photos of them are in the group above.  You can see them facing one another, bowing away furiously, to the delight of the crowd.  David Doucet took a few acoustic guitar solos, though fewer than I recall in other BeauSoleil performances.  Ware and Alessi provided rock steady percussion backup.  And Jimmy Breaux tore it up with his accordion playing, using both Cajun (diatonic) and double-row accordions.  Benoit was not just another Sonny Landreth, not that it would be a bad thing!  He played his own rock style, rather than Landreth’s blues slide style.  He sang several songs, which I did not recognize, so I assume they are his originals.

Besides Michael Doucet’s comments throughout were all about the terrible situation that BP has caused and state and federal governments have exacerbated.   Benoit made an impassioned please before the final song, asking everyone to get involved and to find out the facts for themselves, cautioning the crowd not to believe BP.  This was the most political performance I’ve seen from BeauSoleil.  Benoit is well known as a proponent of coastal restoration, with his free Voice of the Wetlands Festival, founded 2004, in October.

Hardie K. has a review of Cedric Watson and Bijou Créole‘s CD L’Ésprit Creole in his world music blog, Thailand to Timbuktu to La Paz.  It’s from the point of view of someone not part of the Louisiana music scene, but obviously well versed in the international music scene.  He’s got good things to say.  His main point is that this group may be poised to go to the big time, an arena that zydeco hasn’t occupied since Clifton Chenier’s death.   Buckwheat Zydeco is close, touring more than he’s at home in Louisiana, but he’s got a good point.

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