Various Artists

Let Me Play This for You: Rare Cajun Recordings

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Tompkins Square Records' Long Gone Sounds series has been a provocative entry in the field of archival recordings. Though they take painstaking measures in assembling their compilations of rare music from the early 20th century, authoritatively research and annotate their sources in liner notes, and craft each package handsomely, they eschew academic presentation and make no attempt to be comprehensive in the way other labels who source out similar material do. They provide an aural snapshot of a vanished era; nothing more. As such, they've been wildly successful in attracting the ears of music fans who actively seek the sounds of vanishing history. This volume is a case in point. It focuses on the sounds of a handful of obscure Cajun artists from Southwestern Louisiana in 1929 and 1930. It contains all eight sides cut by the accordion and fiddle duo Adolph "Bixy" Guidry and Percy Babineaux, 13 of the 16 available for reissue sides of accordionist Angelas LeJeune (cousin of the more widely renowned Iry), and a very rare 78 by guitarist Alcide "Blind Uncle" Gaspard entitled "Marksville Blues," as well as its flipside, an instrumental played with fiddler Delma Lachney (the pair cut a total of 16 sides together). LeJeune is the best known of this group. He was regarded as an accordionist of considerable ability during his era; but despite winning many accordion contests and playing at dances throughout the region, his more famous cousin's reputation overshadowed him. His finest moments here are the haunting "Madam Donnez Moi Les" and his burning "Perrodin Two Step." Guidry and Babineaux were never particularly widely known. Their four recordings -- all quite fine by the way, especially the Creole-tinged flavor of "I Am Happy Now" -- didn’t set the Cajun music world on fire, and were forgotten almost immediately. Gaspard's "Marksville Blues" is just that, a deep, spare, 12-bar blues with intensely rhythmic, fingerpicked changes and a spooky vocal, but the Cajun overtones in his phrasing and rhythm are unmistakable. The set is deftly and engagingly annotated by Ron Brown, who co-produced it with Christopher King. Let Me Play This for You isn’t for everybody, and it doesn’t try to be. It's for those who seek out the shadows of a history (like much of the land itself) that has all but disappeared. For those who love this music, this set offers treasures not readily available elsewhere.

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