By Roger Armstrong
Louisiana uptown, downtown and down in the Swamps – it’s all here and these nine records represent the finest artists of one of the most musically literate and distinctive States in the whole of the US of A. Be it the wheezing squeezeboxes of the Cajuns, the thundering piano and mellifluous voice of Fats Domino or the spooky blues of Slim Harpo, there is plenty of boppin’ and strollin’ to be had on a Saturday night – or any night for that matter – in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Anytown, Louisiana. The music knows no colour boundaries in the racial stew that is Louisiana and maybe this goes some way to explaining why so many came, from all over the USA, to record here. Even those who emigrated to Los Angeles, as Joe Lutcher did, took that rumba to the hi falutin’ folks of Hollywood and knocked it to them. So allons maintainent and be prepared to waltz fast, two-step with elegance and have a conspicuous good time with a lot of style.
Another Saturday Night
If it hadn’t been for Charlie Gillett we would know a lot less about a lot more music. With the original Oval Records release of this compilation in 1974 we were introduced to the sounds of Swamp Pop with a side of Cajun and of course that most stirring of records, ‘The Promised Land’ by Johnny Allan. Here is the original album with some choice extra cuts.
Eddie's House Of Hits
When researching the Goldband catalogue down in Lake Charles, we spent many happy hours copying tapes at Eddie Shuler’s House Of Hits, a studio frozen in time. Eddie regaled us with stories of the myriad of artists who had passed through the portals and recorded their songs without any real fuss, although possibly after a drink or two.
Shreveport Stomp - Ram Records Vol 1
Ram Records was a small town label run out of Shreveport by the indefatigable record company exec and musician Mira Smith, who cut records under the evocative sobriquet Grace Tennessee. Mira covered the gamut of local music, cutting blues, country and hillbilly using great pickers such as James Burton.
I'm A King Bee
Initially Slim Harpo came our way via the Rolling Stones and all those slightly gauche, longhaired young men who took up the mantle of the blues in early 60s Britain, about as far removed from Louisiana as you could get. Although issued on Nashville’s Excello Records, Slim was about as down and greasy as you could get.
The Early Imperial Singles 1950-1952
Despite Imperial Records prexy Lew Chudd’s doubts, Antoine “Fats” Domino’s ‘The Fat Man’ was far from the waste of money he feared and it launched the longest career in rock’n’roll. These are the seminal New Orleans recordings and they speak for themselves in no uncertain manner.
Jumpin' At The Mardi Gras
Joseph Woodward Lutcher is not as well-known as his big sister Nellie, but he left Lake Charles and carved a fine career for himself in Los Angeles with a Mardi Gras style that had a distinctive New Orleans twist which set him apart from the pure jump and swing that was calling the cats to South Central.
24 steaming swamp classics covering 30 years of that Cajun sound which has been imported for long enough to feel perfectly at home in the bars of London as those of Lafayette. All of your favourites are here, kicking off with Iry LeJeune who revived the moribund style to allow Beausoleil to refine it 30 years later. Keen pricing too.
Play Traditional Cajun Music
These two albums, cut some 10 years apart for Floyd Soileau’s Ville Platte-based Swallow empire stand out as among the finest of the genre. In between recording them, the Balfa Brothers tore up the Newport Folk Festival, introducing Cajun music to a whole new audience. Do yourself a favour and introduce yourself to it here, Balfa style.
Boppin' By The Bayou
Boppin’ by the Bayou could be a dangerous occupation, as falling in risks becoming lunch for the alligators, but then these young men were wild and free and had their own unique take on the sounds of rock’n’roll that were echoing around the US in the wake of the Memphis Flash. And they kept boppin’ into the 60s as if the world hadn’t really changed.