Another installment in Ace's ongoing and reliably riotous journey through the independent imprints that dotted the jukebox and record stores of southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas in the late '50s and early '60s, Swamp Pop by the Bayou focuses on the young white rock & rollers who picked up guitars after hearing not only Elvis Presley but Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Huey "Piano" Smith, along with a bunch of other rock & rollers and R&B cats from New Orleans. In a sense, these groups and singers were garage rockers, knocking out the sound they so loved, but they also specialized in the laid-back shuffles and rollicking rhumbas of the Crescent City. These rhythms gave these rock & rollers a distinctive regional sound, a sound that would be later called swamp pop but that term didn't exist back when these sides -- several of which are unissued until now -- were cut between 1959-1961. They were simply playing rock & roll, never what it was called, and this spirit is palpable in these simple, sometimes raw, recordings that retain a cheerful, vibrant immediacy; there's not much of a sense that the groups were really striving to have a hit but rather were happy to play some music. Most of these 28 cuts favor an easygoing roll rather than frenetic rock but it's never lazy: it's joyous, through and through. A few of these names are recognizable to aficionados of Louisiana rock & roll and R&B -- Warren Storm, Jivin' Gene, and Johnnie Allan pop up, as do John Fred & the Playboys, revealing how they were rockers long before "Judy in Disguise" -- but, like on the previous Bayou compilations produced by Ian Saddler for Ace, there's a heavy emphasis on rarities, with half of these songs making their debut here. These unheard tunes are hardly bad: instead, they're as good as the singles that appeared at the time and, combined, they emphasize just how rich the Louisiana bayou was in the early '60s and how good the music still sounds.
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