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February 12, 2011

Louisiana Cajun French Music

Well it's about time this blog had some cajun music. It was sorely missing from my gumbo of old american roots and fruits. Now remedied!

Zydeco and Cajun are the premier cultural expressions of the spirited and hardy people of southwest Louisiana. While the two styles have some similarities, they are also quite different. Cajun music as we know it today can be traced back to early Acadian, French, Creole, and Anglo-Saxon folk songs. These early ballads and lullabies -- typically concerned with troubles and hard times -- were often sung a cappella. For the most part, they were performed at home and passed down orally from generation to generation; however, the singers of these traditional songs were eventually accompanied by simple instrumentation. Cajun music is, of course, meant for dancing -- one-step, two-step, and waltzes. Traditionally, the Cajun dance ("Fais-do-do" in Cajun) was the major social function in Cajun society. The principal instrument in Cajun music is the diatonic accordion, preferably in the key of C. Although it is a German instrument, the Cajun people adopted it in the 1870s. To a lesser degree, the fiddle is also a favorite instrument in Cajun music. Early Cajun bands featured both of these instruments, as well as a triangle to keep the rhythm. Acoustic guitars were added to the lineup by 1920, then, three decades later, steel, electric guitars, and sometimes drums. Although Cajun music has changed somewhat over the years and has been influenced by other styles of music -- notably country and blues -- it has remained a distinctive style. The first Cajun record was Joe Falcon's "Allons ý Lafayette" from 1928. Although the style was recorded only sporadically for several decades, Iry LeJeune, Harry Choates, Nathan Abshire, Lawrence Walker, Leo Soileau, and Vin Bruce had become influential Cajun artists by the middle of the 20th century. While the music's popularity continued to grow within Louisiana, it didn't enter the spotlight nationally until the mid-'80s, riding on the coattails of the Cajun food explosion. Today several traditional and contemporary Cajun artists -- including Dewey Balfa, Zachary Richard, and Beausoleil -- tour nationally and internationally. Compared to Cajun music, zydeco music has a much shorter history. Like Cajun music, the dominant instrument is the accordion, but unlike Cajun music, zydeco adds electric bass, horns, and sometimes keyboards. In a nutshell, zydeco is Creole (Black) dance music of southwest Louisiana blending Cajun music with rhythm & blues and soul. The word "zydeco" is actually a bastardization of an early zydeco song, "L'Haricots Sont Pas Salls" (The Snap Beans Aren't Salted). The first Black-French recordings were made in 1928 by Amad‚ Ardoin, an accordion player who played in the Cajun style. However, the music we know as zydeco today didn't begin to evolve -- at least on record -- until the mid-'50s, when Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis made their initial recordings. Like Cajun music, zydeco didn't achieve national popularity until the 1980s, buoyed somewhat by Rockin' Sidney's surprise hit "My Toot Toot." By the '90s, several zydeco artists were signed to major labels, including Terrance Simien, Boozoo Chavis, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Rockin' Dopsie. ~ Jeff Hannusch


Louisiana Cajun French Music, Vol. 1: Southwest Prairies, 1964-1967

Year: 1989/1994
Label: Rounder

Review by Ron Wynn

This first of two 1989 Rounder anthologies spotlighting traditional Cajun music from the mid-'60s began with a great group, The Balfa Freres. This was among the finest and most intense of the founding Cajun bands, characterized by wonderful harmonizing, intense leads and great fiddle backing. Others on this anthology were Austin Pitre & The Evangeline Playboys, a hard-driving, upbeat unit, and the venerable Edius Nacquin, in his 70s when he cut the anthology's final four tracks and still an energetic, distinctive singer. The selections were recorded as part of several field sessions initiated by the Newport Folk Foundation from 1964 through 1967.

1 Danse de Mardi Gras - Balfa Brothers - 2:51
2 Lacassine Special - Balfa Freres - 3:11
3 La Valse du Bambocheur - Balfa Brothers - 5:37
4 Hackberry Hop - Balfa Freres - 3:02
5 Valse des Platains - Balfa Freres - 3:47
6 Lake Arthur Stomp - Balfa Freres - 2:16
7 Parlez-Nous Á Boire - Balfa Brothers - 3:42
8 La Valse des Bombaches - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 3:46
9 Les Flammes d'Enfer - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 3:38
10 J'Ai Fini Mes Miseres - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 1:44
11 Hack a 'Tit Moreau - Edius Nacquin - 1:44
12 Si J'Aurais des Ailes - Edius Nacquin - 1:38
13 La Ville de Monteau - Edius Nacquin - 2:43
14 Ou T'Etais Mercredi Passe - Edius Nacquin - 1:54

the flames of hell.
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover


Louisiana Cajun French Music, Vol. 2: Southwest Prairies, 1964-1967

Year: 1989/1994
Label: Rounder

Review by Eugene Chadbourne

Beyond a doubt one of the best issues in this label's catalog, this dandy album provides the listener with the variety that can be found in a compilation, but also satisfies the taste for each artist by doling out generous portions of their music. As for the performers who are featured, all they need is a little room to show their stuff and all credit for the album's grand success is theirs. These are the grand old men of Cajun, the names that come up time and time again in interviews with stars of the genre. Like many originally folk forms of music, the appeal of this music style eventually led it to be played by full, almost pop-sounding ensembles by the '90s. Cajun had already influenced the sound of country and rock music in previous decades to the point where there are probably plenty of listeners whose idea of Cajun music might not encompass the wild and raw performances on this compilation. The instrumental combinations are deliciously sparse, removing the entire elephantine nature of drum set and electric amplification. A stomping foot is what listeners have instead of electric bass on the duos by "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot. The latter man's fiddle is a hearty thing; the vocals by these guys make Tony Joe White sound like a prepubescent choir boy. The sensitivity and split tones in their singing bring to mind the recordings of Native American medicine men. Guitarist Preston Manuel, another important figure in this genre, performs "La Bataille dans le Petit Abre" in a trio with Isom Fontenot on harmonica and Aubrey DeVille on fiddle; the piece is gorgeous, pretty as any ever recorded and certainly a high point in tracks featuring harmonica. Producer and editor Ralph Rinzler gets credit for the fadeout, for which he should be punished by a forced bath in a stinky bayou. DeVille and Manuel get together for a duet which is charming, the accompaniment dropping so far back in volume behind the hilariously over-recorded vocal that it starts to feel like a tickle. The second side is devoted to tracks by the duo of Adam and Cyprien Landreneau, both singing and wailing on violin and accordion, respectively. The group is rounded out by Dewey Balfa, whose presence on triangle fills out an important part of the rhythmic component in a symbolic way, the younger man's presence respectively acknowledging the way this music has been passed on from generation to generation. This side is a romper-stomper, the amusing interludes of studio chatter almost a relief from the musical intensity. Landreneau the fiddler has a tone so sharp that it would send avant-garde jazz violinists such as Billy Bang or Leroy Jenkins running for cover. The way he plays the melody on "La Prairie Ronde" is astounding. On "Les Pinieres" he almost sounds like an alien life form, and that's not the first time an outsider has felt this way about things Cajun. It must be admitted certain listeners may express displeasure at the sound of the vocals on these tracks, even after seeing pictures of what these guys look like (they are a couple of old men and they sing like a couple of old men). Voices crack, yet carefully timed hoots seem to be pitched in a sophisticated relation to the fiddle and accordion harmony. Cajun fans looking for a collection of pieces from some of the music's founding fathers can't do better than this. The label left consumers in a state of insecurity about how much printed material would be provided about the music, however. At one point pressings came with a tiny inserted card indicating that a booklet for the project was still unfinished and purchasers could send in for a copy when it was ready. "Au plu tard," as the Cajuns would say.

1 Hack a 'Tit Moreau - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 3:41
2 Untitled Dance Tune - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - :58
3 Eunice Two Step - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:20
4 Quo Fa're "Bois Sec" - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:21
5 Jug au Plombeau - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:31
6 La Bataille Dans le Petit Arbre - Isom Fontenot, Aubrey Deville, Preston Manuel - 2:42
7 Le Vieux Boeuf et le Vieux Charriot - Isom Fontenot, Aubrey Deville, Preston Manuel - 2:50
8 La Robe de Rosalie - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:12
9 La Prairie Ronde - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:01
10 La Talle des Ronces - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 1:48
11 Les Pinieres - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:02
12 Treville N'Est Pas Pecheur - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 1:43
13 Danse de Limonade - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 2:01

danse le Two Step! & track 10
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover


gypsykat said...

Hi Pirate!

Track 10 is broken in this file.
Please fix?

Thanks for the great music.

The Irate Pirate said...

It's here. Sorry 'bout that.

gypsykat said...

Thanks, Pirate!

Anonymous said...

Can you repost please?