Alan Lomax

Cajun and Creole Music, Vol. 1: 1934/1937

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This is the first of two volumes resulting from Alan and John Lomax's very first recording trip to Cajun country, the 1999 Rounder CD editions being divided neatly between white and black music -- or sloppily, as anyone who actually gets into folk music soon realizes. A somewhat easier reality to discuss, however, would be the question of sound quality. A misconception is afloat that these volumes contain both material recorded in the '30s and '80s, thus leading listeners to patiently await some kind of radical upgrading in audio to take place. It never does, because all of the material on these volumes originates with the original '30s recording sessions in which Alan and John were lugging a portable disc recorder that weighed in at more than 300 pounds, luckily not sinking into a bayou in the process. The '80s do figure into the history of these recordings in that the first commercial release of this material took place in 1987 on the Swallow label, for which Floyd Soileau gets a special mention in the liner notes. Over the course of the half-of-a-century that had elapsed by then, the traditional music of Louisiana had progressed, if that's the right word, from an eccentric mystery of sorts to a well-worn facet of rock and country -- there were even Cajun-influenced disco hits. An obvious aspect of all this rattling of the Cajun cage is better described as the introduction of a buffing wheel into a workshop where such a thing had not seemed necessary. Thus these recordings of singers, fiddlers, and accordion players, in villages such as New Iberia and White Oak, make a splendid contrast to, for example, Doug Kershaw recorded live in a 3000-seat concert hall, or the sounds of a local bar band doing a Cajun number. The first 11 tracks, featuring various combinations of Elita, Ella, Mary, and Julien Hoffpauir vocalizing, may even be too much for the purists. These are completely raw singing performances, accompanied by a thick layer of surface noise from the original disc recording. The latter aspect may even be of more interest to fans of electronic or industrial music than the singing itself. The excellent liner notes provide complete lyrics, as well as information on songs such as "Je M'Ait Fait Une Maitresse," meaning that this set, like so many others in the Lomax collection, is indispensable for the serious student of folk. Others may have to come up with weird reasons to sit through it all, such as the rabbinical student who kept insisting the performers were really singing in Hebrew. The second half of the program will be much more entertaining for the casual listener, consisting of combinations of fiddlers and accordionists performing waltzes, 2-steps, and classics such as "Tout Les Samedis." The "Cajun Waltz" catches the Lomax Brothers off guard -- this must be one of the only instances when they forgot to get the name of the performer, other than their field recordings of entire groups of musical migrant workers and/or pearl divers. Following this, there is a generous selection of group and solo performances from Wayne Perry, Edier Segura, Oakdale Carriere, and others, superb players all.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:52
2 1:49
3 0:26
4 0:27
5 1:27
6 4:49
7 4:26
8 2:56
9 2:08
10 3:09
11 1:50
feat: Wayne Perry
feat: Wayne Perry
feat: Wayne Perry
feat: Wayne Perry
17 3:02
feat: Edier Segura
feat: Edier Segura
20 1:44
21 1:26
22 2:49
blue highlight denotes track pick