Digging from the extensive Cajun archives at Arhoolie, this album, part of the American Masters series, gives the listener a nice overview of a genre's facets. Luckily for the listener with a short attention span, this compilation features very few of the oldest, scratchiest-sounding works and has a pretty good focus on the up-tempo stuff. Beausoleil opens it up with a jig, followed by a slow waltz from Nathan Abshire and a two-step from Wade Frugé. Balfa, Savoy, and Menard take up another slower number, followed immediately by Cheese Read jumping with his fiddle fast and hard enough to sound like a small ensemble. The California Cajun Orchestra has a bouncing swing to its work, Harry Choates has a little country in his sound, and the old Hackberry Ramblers take their opportunity to contribute a slow rendition of "Jolie Blonde." The Savoys and Doucets combine for a nice rendition in honor of Amédé Ardoin, Canray Fontenot uses his fiddle to good effect in "Bernadette," and Austin Pitre uses a bass drum to pound out the power of "Bosco Stomp." The Magnolia Sisters provide a traditional song, Dewey Balfa returns with a romp ("Basile Breakdown") heavy on the triangle, and Michael Doucet makes a nice vocal show. The album finishes up on the venerable Joe Falcon and his fiddle playing is a raucous, if not cacophonous piece ("Flames of Hell"). Overall, it's not a bad collection of Cajun music at all, with the weight of the Arhoolie catalog to back it up. For those interested in Cajun, it's a fine starting point, comparable with Rounder's Essential Collection.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg