It may surprise some readers to learn that many musicians from South Louisiana do not like their music to be categorised as swamp pop (a term coined originally by music writer Bill Millar). For the rest of us, it feels like the perfect way to describe the rolling rhythms and unique vocals that define the great records which came out of the area between the latter 1950s and the mid-60s. Whether he would have liked to be defined by said term or not, Louisiana’s Joe Barry is one of the greatest exponents of the genre, and the recordings that he made between 1959 and 1964 in particular embrace many of its most treasured moments.
Joe only charted nationally a couple of times, his greatest hit being the wonderfully languid revival of hillbilly standard ‘I’m A Fool To Care’, which many thought was the work of Fats Domino until they saw Joe on TV or in photos. But his lengthy career amounted to more than a couple of hit 45s. This new 2CD set, named after Joe’s career record, compiles almost 40 sides from Joe’s first period of recording, plus the dozen tracks cut during his brief comeback of the mid-1970s – almost all of them taped under the supervision of his long-time producer Huey Meaux.
To ensure that “I’m A Fool To Care” would be the definitive collection of Joe’s collaborations with Meaux, Alec Palao and I went back to the producer’s original tapes and re-copied every single one in what turned out to be something of a marathon session inHoustonlast March. Everything here is mastered from those new transfers, with the exception of two Sho-Biz sides, which had to be transferred from a 45 as no tape seems to have survived. Alec was also able to mix a few of the tracks (some previously unreleased) into true stereo for the first time, from a handful of surviving Cosimo’s multi-tracks.
We have not repeated the mistakes of some previous compilations, which included tracks not sung by Joe. Although there have been previous anthologies of his work released during the last 15 years, we guarantee than none of them will offer anything like the level of audio excellence this one does.
With an extensive essay based around an interview conducted by John Broven in the late 70s, and a booklet that contains lots or rare images and label shots of almost every 45 featured on the collection, this 2CD set will be the perfect way to remember this beloved exponent of South Louisiana R&B … or swamp pop, if you don’t happen to be from down that way.
By Tony Rounce