Saturday, June 13, 2009

*Down In The Bayous In Cajun Country- “The French Blues”, "Abbeville Breakdown"

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Clifton Chenier Doing His Thing On The Accordion.


The introductory paragraphs in this review have been used to review other Cajun CDs in this space.

Well, it is about time that I started to review some of the work of the good old boys and girls from the bayous down in Cajun country. Places like Lafayette and Lake Charles evoke memories of time and place in Cajun musical history. You know, at the edges of the places where the likes of Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis learned their crafts. And places where all kinds of mixes of music and races blended to form unique sounds all their own. Accordions, washboards, fiddles, guitars and what ever came to hand on those whiskey-drenched Saturday nights.

And on those nights come names like Clifton Chenier and Booboo Chavis that form the black-influenced strand of the music. The Hackberry Ramblers and the likes of Waylon Thibodeaux form another, the good old white boys. French Acadian exiles, English “swamp foxes” of undetermined origin, black escaped slaves, “poor white trash”- it is all there mixed in one form or another. For the most part there were no serious conscious attempts to mix the strands but how could the intermixing influences be avoided in that small isolated area of southwest Louisiana. And all under the umbrella of what I call the “French blues”. Get your dancing slippers on.

Cajun Volume 1; Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939, CBS Records, 1990

Certain towns in southwest Louisiana evoke the spirit of Cajun music more than others. I have mentioned elsewhere the importance of Lake Charles and Lafayette. Abbeville is another, especially in the period of the music under review. If a group like accordionist Nathan Abshire and the Pine Grove Boys evoke a certain primitive kind of Cajun sound driven by that old accordion and fiddler Luderin Darbone’s Hackberry Ramblers reflect a mix of Cajun with other influences then the music here is evocative of the deeper Acadian roots of the music. Of course, as in any language, the themes of love, lost love and longing for love get a full workout. As proof listen to “Aimer Et Perdre” (“To Love And Lose”), “Comme Moi Ma Saine” (“I Wonder If You Feel The Way I Do”), Quel Espoire” (“What’s The Use”) and “Apres Jengles A Toi” (“Thinking Of You”). Many of the other songs are along this same vein or are just good old flat out dancing tunes.

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