Various Artists

Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954

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This impressive four-disc set covers the early history of Cajun music with a careful eye for detail, beginning with Joseph Falcon's "Lafayette," released in 1928 and generally considered the first commercial Cajun record. An utterly unique mixture of French folk song mixed with American Indian, German, Spanish, Italian, Irish, and African (by way of the West Indies) elements, Cajun music generally relied on a twin-fiddle attack (one lead, one rhythm), and once the German diatonic accordion was introduced, heavy emphasis on the accordion. Song lyrics were usually in French Cajun patois, making Cajun a distinct musical genre in southwest Louisiana that, for all its strange, eerie overtones to the modern ear, was first and foremost a dance music. Cajun Capers traces the early history of the form, and includes such highlights as Amédé Breaux's 1929 recording of what amounts to the Cajun National Anthem, "Jolie Blonde," which began life as "Ma Blonde Est Partie" and shed words and letters until it became known simply as "Jolie Blon" by the time of Harry Choates' definitive version in 1946. Amédé Ardoin, the black accordion player who injected Creole blues into the Cajun equation, thus setting the stage for zydeco, is represented here with 1929's "Two Step de Eunice," and his influence stretches forward 20 years to Clarence Garlow's R&B-inflected "Bon Ton Rula," which was released in 1950 and became the first official zydeco hit. By the mid-'30s, Cajun bands were embracing both country and Western swing, and string band hybrids like the Dixie Ramblers (represented here by "Barroom Blues," a version of "St. James Infirmary") and the long-running Hackberry Ramblers (represented by several tracks, including their own rendition of "Jolie Blon") came into being, and by the early '50s musicians like Jimmy Newman ("Cry Cry Darling") had brought a modernized version of Cajun into mainstream country. This impressive set ends with Moon Mullican's 1952 version of "Jambalaya," a song he co-wrote with Hank Williams while on a drunken fishing trip. Featuring stream-of-consciousness lyrics and relying on a certain public perception of the Louisiana bayous, "Jambalaya" became Cajun's first postmodern anthem, a facsimile of the music itself filtered through a pop lens. It is a fitting place for this collection, which opened with Falcon's 1928 recording of "Lafayette," to come to rest, since the distance between these two records is the story of a music once isolated by swamps and language learning how to assimilate itself into the greater fabric of American music without sacrificing its own identity. It is a completely American story, and Cajun Capers tells it wonderfully.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:59
2 3:10
3 3:22
4 2:52
5
2:56
6
3:04
7
2:42
8 3:16
9 3:13
10 3:07
11 2:57
12
2:47
13 2:58
14 3:06
15 3:13
16 2:36
17 2:41
18
2:52
19 2:48
20 3:18
21
2:43
22
2:40
23
2:54
24
2:49
25
2:49
26
2:57

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:33
2 3:02
3
3:14
4
2:38
5 2:56
6 2:57
7
2:45
8 2:49
9
2:50
10
2:56
11
3:11
12 2:45
13
2:40
14 2:32
15
2:37
16
2:43
17
2:46
18 2:44
19
2:24
20
2:30
21 2:34
22
2:52
23 2:35
24 2:40
25 2:43
26
2:53
27 3:01
blue highlight denotes track pick