review (vinyl)

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.]

Here’s a fabulous album that has never made it to CD format:  La-La : Louisiana Black French Music.  It was originally issued by Swallow Records in 1977 with catalog number LP 1004.  The recordings were made in the field by Nicholas Spitzer, one-time State Folklorist of Louisiana.  Spitzer went on to the Smithsonian, and now produces the excellent syndicated public radio show, American Routes and is professor at Tulane University in New Orleans.  The album is accompanied by an excellent four-page insert listing and commenting on each song, many with lyrics in Creole French and translated into English.  The first side has eight songs by the duo The Carrière Brothers:  Calvin (diatonic accordion) and Bébé Carrière (violin).   This is back porch music as played by rural, French-speaking blacks in south Louisiana going back to the 1930s and perhaps further.  It’s active, participatory self-entertainment, what people did to entertain themselves and each other.    The second side is by The Lawtell Playboys: Delton Broussard (accordon), Calvin Carrière (violin), J.C. Garlow (rubboard), Paul Newman (drums), Linton Broussard (bass), and Shelton Broussard (rhythm guitar).  As Spitzer says, “the sound of the Lawtell Playboys can probably be described as modern rural Zydeco.”  The violin player is typical of Creole French music but not modern zydeco.  This is raw, vital, urgent music that will shake you down to your toes.  If you find a copy, grab it!

La-La : Louisiana Black French Music

La-La : Louisiana Black French Music

THE SUN’S GOING DOWN.  Zydeco Force.  Maison de Soul LP-1038.  No date, presumably 1991.  One 12″ disc.  (Available from Swallow Records)

Zydeco Force is a relatively new group of capable musicianship, featuring   piano-key accordion, rubboard, guitar, bass, drums, and both solo and group singing with spirited call-and-response.  These instruments combine to give a dense, spirited sound.  Oddly, the musicians’ names are not given with the recording.  Though their sound is typical, but their selection of songs is unusual.  They’ve borrowed Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” as “Zydeco Soldier (Buffalo Soldier),” the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s “Do What You Wanta,” and Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  The first two translate well into the zydeco idiom, but the last which is overly sentimental.  The splendid instrumental “Zydeco Slop” has a driving beat, in the style of Clifton Chenier.  Zydeco Force proudly proclaims French African-American style and culture.  “Zydeco Extravaganza” repeatedly mentions “Richard’s Club,” [2009: now closed] the famous night club in Lawtell, La., and “Zydeco Run” is a plea for peace through zydeco.  Zydeco Force, along with their contemporaries C. J. Chenier, the Sams Brothers, and many others insure a bright future for the spicy zydeco style.

[First appeared in the Sonneck Society Bulletin vol. 18 (Fall 1992): page 140.]

June 2009:  Zydeco Force has come and gone, unfortunately, but left behind them several fine recordings.  ‘The Sun’s Going Down” still hasn’t appeard in CD format.  LSU-Eunice Contemporary Cajun, Creole & Zydeco Musician’s entry on Zydeco Force, from 2003 with an update in 2009.  Accordionist Jeffrey Broussard has struck out on his own with his group the Creole Cowboys.

McCauley Reed Vidrine. 1929 And Back.   Mitchell Reed, fiddle; Cory McCauley, accordion and vocals; Randy Vidrine, vocals and guitar.  Swallow Records LP-6090.  1991.  One 12″ disc. (Available from Swallow Records; P. O. Drawer 10; Ville Platte, LA 70586)

The title of McCauley, Reed and Vidrine’s album 1929 And Back refers to the pre-electric era of cajun music.  This is traditional Cajun music, as it is understood today from recordings and living memory.  Only three instruments are heard on the album:  cajun accordion, fiddle, and guitar, and they are heard without amplification.  The musicians are not septuagenarians but young men; the oldest was born in 1954.  Their style is unadorned but zesty.  The all-French vocals are in the traditional nasal manner, and the instruments relaxed but lively.  Most selections are vocal numbers though there are three instrumentals; all are either two-steps or waltzes.  It is a rare pleasure to hear such music played today, as contemporary cajun musicians play in styles heavily influenced by country music, rock and roll, or zydeco.  Moments evocative of the immediate, rural character of cajun music are provided by a bird’s cry heard at the end of one song and a hiccup during another.  The selections are lesser-known members of the Cajun repertoire, with one Tin Pan Alley song, “Lulu’s Back in Town,” sung in French.

[First appeared in the Sonneck Society Bulletin vol. 18 (Fall 1992): page 140.]

[This excellent LP has not appeared in CD form.  Mitchell Reed has gone on to other bands: Tasso and  Charivari.  He’s also played with BeauSoleil and others.  Randy Vidrine was also in Tasso,  Charivari and The Lafayette Rhythm Devils.  Cory McCauley has made one excellent CD, “Play That Thing, Yeah, Jack.”  He does not regularly record or perform, unfortunately.]