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February 12, 2011

Marc Savoy with Dewey Balfa and D.L. Menard: Made in Louisiana - Cajun Accordion Music

One of the all-time great Cajun jam-sessions, by three masters of the genre. Listen & dance!

Marc Savoy - accordion, Dewey Balfa - fiddle, D. L. Menard - guitar

Lotsa hype below, in case you needed any hints…

In the 1970s, Marc Savoy, who had made several visits to the Pacific Northwest, decided it was time to make a recording featuring his incomparable Cajun accordion styling on accordions he made in his shop in Eunice, LA. We shipped studio recording equipment to Mr. Savoy, and this recording was made in his house on a Revox HS77 by John Watt. This is some of the best traditional Cajun dance music ever recorded, played in the traditional, acoustic, manner by three masters of this music.

Recorded in Marc Savoy's home in Eunice, Louisiana, by John Watt on a Revox HS77 recorder using three AKG D190 mikes, mixed to stereo with a Sony mixer. CD made from original session analog tapes, transferred to Tascam DA30 MkII DAT from an Otari 5050B recorder, using a Digitech VTP-1 preamp with A/D conversion. Transferred to PC computer using DAL CardD Plus. Edited with Cool Edit Pro. CD master done with Samplitude CD to HP 6020 CD burner.

Marc Savoy is a native of Eunice, Louisiana who began playing Cajun-style accordion at the age of 12 and now builds the "Acadian" - the most sought-after accordion in the music world today. This collection of instrumentals, recorded in Eunice in 1976 and reissued on the Voyager label, runs through waltzes, one-steps, two-steps, and other traditional dance tunes with the great Dewey Balfa on fiddle and D.L. Menard on guitar. This trio makes the genuine, rooted Cajun music that has the feeling of a shady porch by the bayou. You can almost hear the bare feet slapping on the floor and the wind whistling softly in the Spanish moss. (Trenton Times)


Savoy is a brilliant cajun accordion player using here mostly the ten button German accordion, an instrument of great fullness and in the hands of this expert, an instrument of endless variety from the fleet notes of "Eunice One Step" to the oompah of "Chere Petite" with its laconic melody. A special treat is the marvelous back-up guitar work of D.L. Menard here, particularly "La Valse A Macareau" where he pulses the movement of the song. Any guitarist can learn a great deal from hearing his timing, building and pulse. This is Marc's album and a very strong statement of the Cajun-Louisiana sound. He switches to the three-row diatonic accordion to do a couple of Zydeco tunes like "J'suis Parti a Lafayette." Good album recorded in Louisiana where Marc lives. (Victory Review)


The next gem in our Cajun music crown is Voyager's release of a 1976 recording featuring accordionist (and squeeze-box maker) Marc Savoy backed by two other stalwarts of Louisiana music, Dewey Balfa on fiddle and D. L. Menard on guitar.

Made in Louisiana is an all-acoustic session with a real down-home barn dance feel; it sounds like it was recorded live in the studio. Most of the 13 tracks (12 instrumentals, one vocal) follow a similar pattern in that Savoy takes the lead much of the time, but he steps aside once or twice on each tune to allow Balfa to carry the melody for a while. Menard's role is basically a supporting one, but his guitar is recorded at a level that allows you to hear and enjoy what he's playing.

Voyager Recordings should be commended for making this session available. Made in Louisiana is a perfect example of simple and spirited music performed by artists whose love and enthusiasm for their heritage shine through on every note. (Dirty Linen)


Savoy is widely known for his recordings with Michael Doucet. These sessions, which were recorded at Savoy's home in 1976, have been digitally remastered and consist mostly of little-known Cajun gems from the repertoire of Doc Guidry, Chuck Guillory, Dennis McGee, Iry LeJune, and other masters. All of the selections feature fiddle and guitar accompaniment and, except for Balfa's heartfelt vocals of "La Branche du Mûrier," all are instrumental. The last two tracks are zydeco tunes that Savoy plays on the three-row accordion. It's a little unusual these days to listen to a predominately instrumental collection of Cajun tunes, but Savoy plays them as well as anybody could. This is Cajun music in as pure a state as one is likely to hear these days. (Dirty Linen)


Seattle's own John Watt journeyed to the Savoy homeplace in Eunice, LA in 1976 to record Marc's neo-baroque Cajun accordion along with his pals, the late Dewey Balfa on fiddle, and D. L. Menard on guitar, for a wonderful set of rousing instrumental (Dewey sings "La Branche du Mûrier" as the only vocal). This represents some of the finest Cajun music ever put on a recording device. It is Louisiana music at its traditional best, including a couple of pieces with Marc on a 3-row diatonic box, laying down some zydeco rhythms. It's a wonderful recording, the only drawback being its meager 33 and a half minute playing time. (Victory Music Review)


This is a timely release of some recordings made in Eunice, Louisiana in 1976, featuring accordionist Mark Savoy, accompanied by D.L. Menard and the late Dewey Balfa. "Timely" because much of the cajun and zydeco music being played and recorded today is buried beneath layers of drums and electric instruments, and it's good to be reminded how soulful the combination of fiddle, accordion and rhythm guitar can be. Savoy builds and plays his own accordions, and the selections here reflect his deep roots in the culture and music of Louisiana. "Viens Me Chercher," "Eunice One-Step," and "La Branche du Murier" are among my favorites. (Dirty Linen)


In March 1976, Seattle Folklore activist John Watt journeyed to Eunice, Louisiana to record what would be one of the decade's most significant Cajun albums. At center stage in the production was accordionist Marc Savoy, a highly respected instrument maker and player who had accompanied several of his peers on their own album projects. Backing him on the session were guitarist D.L. Menard, long regarded as a music legend in Cajun country, and fiddler Dewey Balfa, whose 1964 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival had sparked nationwide interest in his people's music. Savoy's album, originally released in 1976, has just been reissued on compact disc by Voyager Recordings, a largely fiddle-oriented label operated by Seattle musicians Phil and Vivian Williams.

Although John Watt had been interested in folk music for many years, he had contented himself with listening rather than playing until Marc Savoy introduced him to the Cajun "button" accordion. "I got to the three-or-four-chord stage in the early parts of the Folk Scare in the Sixties," he explains, "and then fell in with a bunch of people who played music much better than I could, so I went back to running PA systems and tape recorders. Savoy came through in 1975 with Mike Seeger's Oldtime Music Festival, in which Seeger got together a bunch of interesting ethnic musicians and toured with them. That year the Cajun contingent was Marc Savoy, who was very much the youngest, and Sadie Courville and Dennis McGee. That was when I first heard a Cajun accordion played, and I basically fell in love with the thing."

During the few days Savoy spent in Seattle at the home of Phil and Vivian Williams, Watt got some valuable time with his new musical mentor, but his best chance to immerse himself in Cajun culture came later that year in a disastrously unexpected way. "I was building the overhead wire on the streetcar museum outside of Portland," he explains. "Just a hobby thing. The tower I was working on fell out from under me. I had about eighteen feet to learn how to fly, and I wasn't a very quick study. I wound up with a pelvic fracture, and I was out of work and on crutches for about six weeks. Toward the end of that period I was convalescing, Continental Airlines had some pretty good flight deals, and Marc said, "Why don't you come down and hang out around here for a week or two?" I got on the airplane and hung around with a bunch of Cajuns for about a week."

In March of the following year, Watt got another irresistible opportunity to go to Louisiana when a co-worker moving to Texas offered to pay his plane fare home if he would help with the driving. Since he had already discussed the idea of a Voyager album with Phil Williams and Savoy, the accordionist proposed a visit to Eunice with some recording equipment. "The basic stuff was a Revox and three or four microphones," Watt recalls. "For the actual recording, we set up a studio in the unfinished part of Marc's living room: he was living over the music store then. We recorded it to two-track stereo. The recording is just Dewey Balfa, D.L. Menard, and Marc, and we were doing it specifically as an accordion piece. The material is what Marc and Dewey primarily chose. That's basically how it got done."

The album, entitled MADE IN LOUISIANA, was released by Voyager soon after it was recorded in 1976. "It was moderately successful, as these things go," Phil Williams remembers, estimating sales at about a thousand copies. It was reissued about a decade later on cassette and remains available in that format. With its release this year on compact disc, Voyager faces a substantially different marketplace than the one that greeted the album twenty years ago. Interest in all things Cajun has grown exponentially, and then there's another small factor to consider: the dawning of the Information Age. "We actually have been marketing on the Internet through the web site," says Williams. "That's one of our better sources for orders right now. In fact, we've had inquiries from some of the national chains: Tower Records is interested. Of course, that's encouraging, to say the least!"

The reason for the enthusiasm is obvious. In an era when Cajun music has nearly been modernized out of existence by the use of electric instruments and pop-rock production strategies, this album is a breath of fresh air. Produced simply in the live "field recording" tradition of the early Sixties, it places Savoy's exuberant accordion at the center of the stereo mix, flanked by D.L. Menard's solid guitar accompaniment and Dewey Balfa's singularly expressive fiddling. "It's just soulful playing all the way around," Williams summarizes. "The Back-up can hardly be beat!" (Heritage Music Review) 


Marc Savoy with Dewey Balfa and D.L. Menard: Made in Louisiana - Cajun Accordion Music

Liner Notes - VRCD 325

Marc Savoy from Eunice, Louisiana has played the accordion since he was twelve years old. He builds his own "Acadian" brand accordions, which are sold throughout the U.S., Canada, and France, and are prized for their responsiveness, volume, and careful craftsmanship. Marc is joined on this recording by his good friends the late Dewey Balfa, renowned traditional fiddle player, and D. L. Menard, one of Louisiana's finest backup guitarists and songwriters.

Recorded at Eunice, Louisiana, March 1976 by John Watt, assisted by Michéle DeLaurenti. Mixdown and digital remastering by Phil Williams. Liner notes and photo by Ann Savoy. Cover design by Virginia Hand.

1. Eunice One-Step (3:12) - Marc learned this song as a boy from an old black man named Joya Guidry who was a relative of the late Amédée Ardoin, the most famous early accordion player.

2. Tolan Waltz (1:54) - Tolan McCullough was a popular blacksmith, rice mill operator and saloon owner in Eunice. Chuck Guillory and Jimmy Newman composed this song in his honor.

3. Old Crowley Two-Step (2:40) - Recorded by Doc Guidry on fiddle and later by Walter Mouton as "Scott Playboy Special."

4. Chère Petite (2:42) - Marc thinks this haunting melody was written by Leo Soileau. It was first made popular by Cajun "country-western" fiddler Chuck Guillory.

5. Church Point Breakdown (2:45) - Named after a tiny town near Eunice, this was originally recorded by Amédée Ardoin.

6. La Branche du Mûrier (3:32) - The original words to this popular melody were written by the late Dennis McGee, who lived in Eunice. The story goes that a young girl cut a branch off of a mulberry tree so she could see her fiancé's brother ride by. It was this brother whom she really loved.

7. Perrodin Two-Step (3:37) - This was first recorded by Dennis McGee, Angelus LeJeune, and Ernest Frugé. It is named after two brothers who often requested it at dances.

8. La Valse À Macareau (2:52) - Written by a black midwife named Macareau who helped deliver Joel Savoy, Marc's father.

9. Cajun Flop-Eared Mule (2:04) - An old Cajun song resembling the American traditional song "Flop-Eared Mule". The title is unknown so Marc calls it "Cajun Flop-Eared Mule."

10. Viens Me Chercher (Come and Get Me) (2:50) - This is an old song recorded by Iry LeJeune, who brought the accordion back to popularity in the 1950's after it had been neglected in the 1940's. He is felt by many to truly sing the soul of the prairie with his lonely cries and powerful accordion playing. The story tells of a young man lamenting that his "catin" won't come back since her old father dragged her back home. Every night he kisses his pillow making believe it is she beside him.

11. La Valse de Pont D'Amour (Lovebridge Waltz) (2:05) - In this song a woman told a man she didn't want him any more and he took it so hard that he took to the big roads.

12. J'Suis Parti à Lafayette (1:39) - Marc learned this Zydeco song from Clifton Chenier. He plays it and the next tune on the three-row accordion commonly used in Zydeco music, rather than the Cajun accordion which he plays on the other tunes.

13. Les Haricots Sont Pas Salés (1:10) - The old song "Zydeco N'est Pas Salés" (the snap beans aren't salty) gave the name to this style of music.

salty gumbo.
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover

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