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Louisiana Cajun French Music from the Southwest Prairies

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Field recordings made in 1965 and 1966 by Ralph Rinzler. These field trips, sponsored by the Newport Folk Foundation, produced a series of recordings which resulted in invitations to such groups as the Balfa Brothers (whose music was, at the time, utterly unknown outside of southwest Louisiana) to come north, and helped to kick off the widespread enthusiasm for things Cajun which has since spread worldwide. With the Balfa Brothers, Edius Nacquin, Austin Pitre & the Evangeline Playboys, and others.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 29, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • Run Time: 43 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000003AR
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,485 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Overall, this CD is great. The Balfa Brothers are in fine form and Austin Pitre's sides were cut live at a dance. My favorites, however, are the Edius Nacquin tunes at the end of the CD. He sings some old traditional songs that go way back. "La Ville de Monteau" is one that even mentions Napoleon Bonaparte, so you know how old it has to be. This one is highly recommended for those who want to get a little more in-depth into the roots of today's modern Louisiana dancehall/festival sound.
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For those who've heard those nice polished Swallow recordings of the Balfas and Austin Pitre this album is a nice switch from the studio to the home & dance hall. Plus we get to hear some very old Cajun folk numbers as well.

I'd like to emphasize that you might be better served listening to those polished recordings before coming to this volume. Find the Balfas "Play Traditional Cajun Music" and Swallow various artist compilation that might feature Austin Pitre's singles, as they are a "easier" introduction to the musicians than these field recordings. For the outsider, anyway...

First up we have seven numbers from Freres' Balfa, Dewey Balfa and his brothers Rodney, Will and Harry, accompanied by Hadley Fontenot, and accordionist. Hadley's brother-in-law was Edius Naquin, by the way, featured elsewhere in this compilation. Anyway, the Balfas give us an early workout of "Danse De Mardi Gras", appearing some 10 years later on their second Swallow LP, versions of "Lacassine Special", "La Valse De Bambocheur" and "Parlez-nous a Boire". The gem of the set, is a totally new cut sung by Rodney Balfa called "Valse de Platains". The group never re-cut it and apparently no one else did, as information is scant. Haunting cut.

Next is two live cuts by Austin Pitre and his band,the Evangeline Playboys. Austin Pitre was a fine musician, a fiddler and accordionist. These recordings crackle with energy, the most unusual thing is how they don't resemble Cajun music much at all. Odd enough, they sound like a pre-cursor to southern rock, the kind of thing that (the non-Cajun) Doug Kershaw was playing with on his "Alive and Pickin'" album in the 70's. Not bad, maybe a bold move for the time, but it sounds very systematic.
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I think track 8 is mislabeled. The label has it as Valse de Bombache, but it is not at all the same song as the Balfa Brothers' Valse du Bambocheur, hence not a duplicate cut. The correct title for this song done by Pitre is Valse de Orphelin, I am pretty sure.

Austin Pitre's singing on this collection is great! I prefer this ragged but right sounding version of Les Flammes d'Enfer to the one on his Swallow 45, which is available on Austin Pitre: Early Essential Cajun Recordings. It's loose but in a good way! The scorcher, though, is Track 8! It's Pitre on fiddle with a wailing drummer, bass, and electric rhythm guitar. Interesting, too, are Pitre's remarks to the dancehall crowd asking them, in French, not to make any requests because they are recording for a man from Massachusetts and a man from New York, presumably Ralph Rinzler who recorded this and other field work following the 1964 appearance of Cajun musicians at the Newport Folk Festival.

The Edius Naquin pieces are all historic, some going back to colonial days! La Ville de Monteau, for example, is about Napoleon Bonaparte being mocked by brave French soldiers garrisoned in Louisiana. This was before the Louisiana Purchase.

The Valse de Platains sung by Rodney Balfa was recorded pre-World War II by Happy Fats, who was a popular source of yet another beloved Balfa tune, Les Veuves de la Coulee.

The sound quality is quite good for mid-60s field recordings, and the songs are a lot of fun. Highly recommended, as is Volume 2 featuring Bois-Sec Ardoin, Canray Fontenot, Isom Fontenot, Aubrey Deville, and Adam and Cyprien Landreneau!

Volume 2 begins with the black Creole French sounds of Bois-Sec Ardoin on accordion and Canray Fontenot on fiddle. Very bluesy sounding!
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