Tag Archives: Cajun

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Live From Ebbets Field

Live from the Denver ozone in 1973

For many rock listeners, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, was a taste-expanding experience. The group’s catalog of country, western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues and rockabilly was broader than the country excursions of 1960s rock bands like the Byrds, and though others – notably NRBQ – blended multiple genres, the Airmen’s cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln” turned commercial attention into a following. The band hit the road in 1973 in support of their third album, Country Casanova, with a new-used tour bus and ace steel player Bobby Black in tow. The tour schedule was apparently quite grueling, but produced superb shows, including this stop in Denver, Colorado.

The group’s core lineup – George “Commander Cody” Frayne, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen, John Tichy, Lance Dickerson, Andy Stein and Bruce Barlow – had been steady since their debut, and the chemistry they’d developed in San Francisco Bay Area clubs is evident in this set. They weave together a handful of originals with a wealth of brilliantly selected covers, including sad truckin’ songs, rockin’ rave-ups, Cajun and swing dance numbers, novelty tunes and a cowboy closer. The stereo recording is well preserved, though there are major dropouts on “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)” and “Diggy Liggy Lo,” and the live mix lets some of the instruments and vocals peak in the red.

The set features three tracks from Country Casanova, including the original “Rock That Boogie,” but skips the earlier hit “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The Commander gets a spotlight on Merle Travis’ “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” and the crowd seems quite pleased with the set and six song encore. The 1973 tour has now produced several albums, including the classic Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas and the more recent Tour From Hell. There are a few overlaps in the set lists, but the group’s huge repertoire provides eleven songs here that don’t appear on the other two. There’s a bit of stage banter to give you a feel for the 68-minute show; all that’s missing is the evening’s second set! [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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Marley’s Ghost: The Woodstock Sessions

marleysghost_thewoodstocksessionsVeteran roots group records in Woodstock with Larry Campbell

Thirty years into their career, Marley’s Ghost is like a well-worn leather jacket. You can admire their tenure intellectually, but up-close, with your ears, you can’t help but be moved by the effortless music their tenure has produced. The band’s breadth, interpersonal chemistry and instrumental skills create performance from the seemingly simpler act of music making. “Seemingly,” because it’s anything but simple for skills to be so completely second nature. With Larry Campbell as producer and recording in Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio, the group leaned heavily on a connoisseur’s selection of traditional material that includes titles written by the Delmores (“Field Hand Man”) and made famous by the Stanleys (“Stone Walls and Steel Bars”), Bill Monroe (“In the Pines”) and Carter Family (“The Storms Are on the Ocean”). The harmonies flow easily from blues to bluegrass to country to Cajun, and in “Run on for a Long Time,” to gospel. The album closes with the fiddle tune “Uncle Joe,” leaving listeners dancing to this journey through American roots music. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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The Revelers: Get Ready

Revelers_GetReadySouthern Louisiana soul

Formed from members of the Red Stick Ramblers and Pine Leaf Boys, the Revelers cover a lot of Southern musical ground. Their last release, a four-song salute to swamp pop, showed off just one of their many influences. Their latest features all original material that combines zydeco, cajun, southern soul, pop, country, jazz and blues into a wonderfully potent mash. The Revelers mingle their roots into joyful dance music that’s hard to pin down; one can point to a particular accordion, fiddle, throaty saxophone, waltz-time rhythm or Cajun French lyric, but no single element fully defines the Revelers. Think of NRBQ with a stronger Southern pull.

The album’s songs cover the entire lifecycle of love. They caution listeners to “Play it Straight,” but apologetically admit they’ve cheated (“Just When I Thought I Was Dreaming”). They feel unappreciated (“Being Your Clown”), dump ill-fitting mates (“Please Baby Please”), put their troubles behind them (“Outta Sight”), lament their decisions (“Single Jeans”), and find themselves on the receiving end of a scorned lover’s revenge (“You No Longer Want to See Me”). But no matter the subject, there’s a danceable beat, culminating in the album’s closing  “Ayou On Va Danser?” This is a band to see and dance to live, but until you can, a few turns around the living room will have to do. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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The Revelers: Swamp Pop Classics, Volume 1

Revelers_SwampPopClassicsVolume1Hot covers of four swamp-pop favorites

Founding members from two of Louisiana’s freshest bands of the past decade – the Red Stick Ramblers and the Pine Leaf Boys – have joined together to produce this four-song salute to swamp pop. Swamp pop is a label given to the late-50s amalgam of southern R&B, soul, doo-wop, country, Cajun and zydeco influences heard in chart hits like Jimmy Clanton’s “Just a Dream,” Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” Grace and Dale’s “I’m Leaving It Up To You,’ and most famous of all (due to Bill Haley’s rock ‘n’ roll cover), Bobby Charles’ classic “Later Alligator.”

The EP opens with a Cajun-influenced arrangement of “Let the Good Times Roll,” that combines accordion, horns and second-line drumming with electric guitar and bass that lean to Chicago R&B. Bobby Charles’ “Grow Too Old” brings the R&B focus back to New Orleans, and Jerry LaCroix’s “Lonely Room” echoes the ’50s vocal thread that runs through many swamp pop originals. The closing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is a horns-and-organ soul instrumental [1 2] juiced with a hot tempo, Blake Miller’s accordion, and a sizzling sax solo from the band’s newest addition, Chris Miller.

This is available on vinyl from the band’s website, or as a digital download from retail; either way, it’s sure to heat up your dance party. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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Various Artists: Swamp People


Whether or not you’re a viewer of the History Channel’s Swamp People, this collection of bayou-inspired tunes is sure to please Louisiana music fans. Though subtitled “music inspired by the television series,” the album’s best known titles (“Amos Moses,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “Fire on the Bayou,” and “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)”) predate the program by decades. Only the collection’s title track is newly written, and the set is filled out with finely selected Zydeco, country, bayou funk and soul from the Rounder vault. The set closes with Bobby Charles’ original recording of “See You Later, Alligator,” showing off the song’s New Orleans roots with some fine second-line drumming. All in all, a good disc to accompany a gator hunt, or just a bowl of gumbo. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Swamp People Home Page

Tara Nevins: Wood and Stone

Nevins explores her country and Cajun roots

Nevins’ second solo album (her first since 1999’s Mule to Ride) hangs on to the rootsy underpinnings of her musical day job with Donna the Buffalo, but cuts a looser, more soulful country groove than does her long-time group. Without a co-vocalist sharing the microphone, Nevins’ voice carries the album, and without a second writer, her songs stretch out across all her influences, including fiddle- and steel-lined country, second line rhythms and the Cajun sounds of her earlier band, the Heartbeats. The latter appear together on the energetic fiddle tune “Nothing Really,” and individually on several other tracks. Additional guests include Levon Helm (drumming on two tracks), Allison Moorer (tight trio harmony with Teresa Williams on “The Wrong Side”) and Jim Lauderdale (harmony on the acoustic “Snowbird”).

Producer Larry Campbell fits each song with a unique groove and adds superb electric and pedal steel guitar. The girlishness in Nevins’ voice and the layering of double-tracked vocals add a hint of the Brill Building, which is a terrific twist on the rustic arrangements. The lyrics cast an eye on relationships that refuse to live up to their potential, with music that underlines the certainty of a woman who will no longer suffer others’ indecision, inaction or infidelity. Three deftly picked covers include the standard “Stars Fell on Alabama” (from the film 20 Years After), the traditional “Down South Blues,” and Van Morrison’s “Beauty of Days Gone By.” Campbell and Nevins work some real magic here, creating a musical platform that often feels a more crafted fit for Nevins’ singing than that of her long-time group. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Wood and Stone
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Donna the Buffalo’s Home Page

Pine Leaf Boys: Homage Au Passe

PineLeafBoys_HomageAuPasseA joyous Cajun dance party on CD

This young Lafayette, Louisiana quintet moves to the Lionsgate label for their third album, and packs along all the accordion- and fiddle-based flavors of their earlier releases. Though they play traditional Cajun music, in both covers and original compositions, they play with a joy that feeds off their youthful sense of glee. Where many Cajun records sound like studio-polished versions of an act’s live show, the Pine Leaf Boys bring the swing and the foibles of the stage into the studio. The result is a disc that captures the verve of a band playing for dancers rather than for microphones. Their vocals offer a rawness that holds on to the music’s front porch seed; their rhythms roll and sway as if propelled by bodies swirling at a fais do-do. There are two-steps and waltzes, and the upbeat original “J’Suis Gone Pour Me Saouler” salutes New Orleans’ influence on the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. As much as they revere past legends of Cajun music, the Pine Leaf Boys bring their own round of refreshments to the party. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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The Red Stick Ramblers: My Suitcase is Always Packed

redstickramblers_mysuitcase-copyTasty southern mash of Cajun, country, jazz and swing

The Ramblers fifth album, their second for Sugar Hill, continues to masterfully mix fiddle-led country and blues, Hot Club-styled jazz and galloping western swing. As the band’s evolved from imitation to influence, so too have they moved from albums stocked with covers to nearly all original material. Aside from a pair of Cajun classics, the Touchet Family’s “Old Fashioned Two Step” and Eddie Shuler’s “La Valse De Meche,” the band members have written their own country weepers, bluesy jazz and all manner of dance tunes. Actually, the entire album, as with most of the group’s repertoire, is filled with dance tunes – slow, fast and in between, this is music meant to get listeners moving.

The group’s lead vocalist (and one of its two fiddlers) Linzay Young says cheekily, “Who knew all these years of poverty, heart break, substance abuse, self-exploration and transient life-style would result in something worth-while!” Of those experiences, heartache tops the list, bending an elbow in “Drinkin’ to You,” dampening eyes on the fiddle waltz “Bloodshot,” singing the lonesome blues “Doggone My Time,” and unconvincingly giving bad times a kiss-off with “Goodbye to the Blues.” But the romantic problems aren’t all past-due as the songs find happiness in a less-then-perfect relationship, beg for another chance, navigate parental interference, and in the sly “My Suitcase is Always Packed,” avoid entanglement with an ever-ready escape plan.

The album closes with an original call-and-response jump blues “The Barnyard Bachelor” that provides a microcosm of the band’s nostalgic influences, musical chops, sweet humor and undeniable danceability. This band gets better with each release, more confident in their writing, more thorough in the absorption of their influences, and both tighter and more relaxed in their vocal harmonies and instrumental interplay. With guest helpings of accordion, steel and piano the Ramblers match suit-and-tie style to sleeves-rolled-up workmanship. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Drinkin’ to You
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BeauSoleil: Alligator Purse

beausoleil_alligatorpurseFine program of traditional and contemporary Cajun music

Formed in the mid-70s as a platform for Louisiana fiddler Michael Doucet’s appreciation of his native Cajun musical traditions, BeauSoleil has become an integral part of the history it sought to provide popular resuscitation. More importantly, by interweaving Cajun, zydeco, country, blues, jazz, and other sounds, BeauSoleil not only sparked renewed interest in Southern Louisianan sounds, but moved beyond simple preservation (to the consternation of some critics) to innovation. Doucet’s early studies in the UK and France provided exposure to the genre’s classic songs, the music’s European roots, and the techniques of seminal players. As the lessons were internalized the group has more freely inflected the classics with new flavors and drawn non-Cajun material into the fold. The group’s latest (their 29th release!) includes collaborations with Natalie Merchant, Garth Hudson, John Sebastian and others.

Doucet comes out blazing on the instrumental “Reel Cajun (451 N. St. Joseph),” nearly sawing his fiddle in half as he pays tribute to Dennis McGee. Second line drumming provides an apt rhythm for the French translation of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” rendered here as “Rouler et Tourner.” Julie Miller’s “Little Darlin’,” which originally appeared as a duet with her husband Buddy Miller on 2004’s Love Snuck Up, has its backwoods country twang taken upbeat by Doucet and Natalie Merchant. Cooling down with the New Orleans stroll of “Marie” (supplemented by Andy Stein’s superb sax solo) you start to feel this disc is sequenced as an evening’s dance program. The band combines classic fiddle and accordion lines with the more contemporary sound of a flat-picked guitar on the waltz-time “Valse á BeauSoleil,” and gives dancers a chance to promenade with “Bosco Stomp.”

The mid-30’s ballad “La Chanson de Théogène Dubois” is transformed with a Latin beat into “Théogène Creole,” with the flat-picked acoustic guitar, accordion and fiddle each taking a spin in the spotlight. The group also works its magic on Bobby Charles’ “I Spent All My Money Loving You,” retaining the song’s original Memphis soul with drums and organ, but adding Cajun flavors with accordion and a French translation of the verses. J.J. Cale’s skiffle-blues “The Problem” gets a more straight-up treatment, with the original’s shuffle beat emphasized in all of the instruments. Cale’s lyrics of empty-headed leaders and passive followers was a potent indictment of Bush’s failed administration, and remains a stirring call-to-arms. Amédé Ardoin’s classic “Valse á Thomas Ardoin” offers a last call from the accordion and a fitting close to BeauSoleil’s Cajun prom. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Little Darlin’
BeauSoleil’s Home Page
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