CAJUN ACCORDION DISCUSSION GROUP
Brandon's post encouraged me to repost my suggested list for those bored of the same-ole Cajun music and are interested in expanding their early Cajun music library. I've pasted the following from an early post that may have gone unnoticed. Enjoy
Instead of venturing into the subjective arena of "best Cajun music" of all time, I'd like to steer the topic into the direction of what I consider the most essential CD compilations out there, covering as much of the early Cajun music as possible. CDs that I personally believe should be in the libraries of any Cajun music enthusiast. Even recently (last 10 years), there have been some ground-breaking releases on the old material that I believe everyone should have access to, for reference, if anything. Even though LPs are still out there, I'll stick to CDs for now. And I'll stick to early Cajun (pre-1960)
NOTE: some of the material is issued by EU labels, mainly because their laws on licensing old recordings is very open.
1 - The Complete Early Recordings Of Dennis McGee (Yazoo, 1994)
While Dennis can be found in a variety of other compilations, I chose this one since it covers the vast material he did with Courville and Fruge in one collection. It however does not contain the material with Ardoin or Lejeune.
2 - Cajun Vol. 1 Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Columbia 1991)
Traditional and String Band eras. While it's missing much of the Falcon material, it's covers plenty of the Breaux material as well as the Guidry family that recorded a decade later called the Alley Boys of Abbeville.
3 - Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
Traditional and String Band eras. This 4CD set will really kick-off your Cajun music library. It covers plenty of early Falcon, Breaux, McGee Ardoin, Soileau, even Walker! The last CD is purely Hackberry Ramblers in all their glory.
4 - CAJUN-Rare & Authentic (JSP 2008)
Traditional and String Band eras. Similar to JSP's early 2004 release, this one is just as essential. Materials you can't find in the first one, can be found here, including other McGee, Breaux, Falcon, and Ardoin materials, but also Segura, Dixie Ramblers, Jolly Boys, and several of Werner sessions, with some Hackberry Ramblers and Alley Boys as well.
5 - Early American Cajun Music (Yazoo, 1999)
Traditional era. This covers the obscure recordings from north of Cajun country, by John Bertrand, Blind Uncle Gaspard and Delma Lachney. Distinctly different than the French which was being recorded at the time, this CD contains the most material from this group.
6 - Let Me Play This For You: Rare Cajun Recordings (Tompkins Square, 2013)
Traditional era. This is really the only release to cover the material from Angelas Lejeune and the duo Percy Babineaux & Bixy Guidry in full glory. This contains the issues of Dennis with Angelas as well that the Yazoo is missing. Until 2013, most of this wasn't available to anyone. Mastered by my good friend Chris King.
7 - Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings Of Amede Ardoin (Tompkins Square, 2011)
Traditional era. There are 2 major CD releases of Amede Ardoin, this being the latest. This completes the Dennis collection by containing the ones with Ardoin and Dennis too. I recommend this one over the 1995 Arhoolie one done for 2 reasons. First, this is a 2 CD set finally containing everything Ardoin did and second, it was remastered by Chris King with modern noise reduction equipment (although purists may disagree if this is a positive thing or not). Sadly, unlike the Arhoolie release, it does not contain his lyrics. :(
8 - Cajun Country Volume 2: More Hits From The Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Traditional era and string band. This does contain quite a bit of some material from the CDs above, but has enough rare stuff to complete your collection that I still recommend it if you have the room in the library. While it has some Ardoin, Falcon, Lejeune, Werner and Alley Baoys, what makes it shine is it's include of the Credeur stuff, Soileau Couzens, Arteleus Mistric, Columbus Fruge, Segura Brothers, Fawvor Brothers, Slim Doucet, Joe's Acadians, Delin T, tons of Fuselier's Merrymakers, very early Nathan Abshire, and tons of early Happy Fats. Def needed in the library.
9 - Cajun String Bands: The 1930s: "Cajun Breakdown" (Ahhoolie 1997)
String band era. A good mix of Fuselier, Soileau and Hackberry on one CD. Several tunes not found in other places. Adding a few tunes by Clifford Breaux and Dixe Ramblers.
10 - The Early Recordings Of Leo Soileau (Early American Cajun Music) (Yazoo 1999)
Traditional era. The only CD to cover Leo Soileau's early accordion-led recordings before he switched over to string band music in the 30s. Features all of the Mayuse Lafleur material as well as alot of Moise Robin materials. An essential one!
11 - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)
Dancehall era. The only CD really needed of Nathan Abshire during this period. Contains almost all the material from his Khoury/OT years, when he was laying down his most recognized tunes. The original Kaplan Waltz, Bayou Teche, and original versions of Pine Grove Blues. This goes well with the next CD.....
12 - Master Of The Cajun Accordion - The Classic Swallow Recordings (Ace 2014)
'Renaissance"/revival era. Contains Nathan in the years after Khoury/OT when he resurrected his career with Swallow. If only we can get Nathan's 'Kajun' recordings on compilation. hmmmm
13 - Cajun Honky Tonk: Khoury Recordings (Arhoolie 1995)
14 - Cajun Honky Tonk: The Khoury Recordings Vol. 2 (Arhoolie 2013)
Dancehall era. This contains much of the remaining recordings from the Khoury/OT years outside of Nathan's stuff. It's released on 2 CDs by my good friend Lyle Ferb. Rare post war material from Lawrence Walker, early Dewey Balfa, Crawford Vincent, Shuk Richard, Floyd Leblanc, Blackie Fruge, Amar Devillier, and other obscure Nathan materials by some of his other band members. Def needed in library.
15 - Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace 2004)
Dancehall era. The only real Iry Lejeune compilation I can recommend. If you know anything about the other compilations before this one, then you should know this is the first one to contain actual unmodified recordings of Iry from the original 78 records. All early Goldband LPs and tapes were modified, annoying most trying to hear Iry in his raw form. This contains all the Opera/Goldband releases.
16 - Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear 2002)
Dancehall era. I have to recommend this as the only real mostly complete Harry Choates disc. It contains the critically important historical recording of the 1946 Goldstar 'Jole Blon', which Arhoolie failed to license for their CD in 1993. But even more important is the liner notes that expert Choates researcher Andrew Brown put together for the 2CD set. It contains ALL of the Goldstar sessions, the Cajun Classic session, and the Macy's sessions. Sadly, it doesn't contain the Hummingbird releases or the Allied sesssions. You'll have to get the 1990 Krazy Kat CD compilation for those few remaining songs.
17 - Essential Collection of Lawrence Walker (Swallow)
Dancehall era. Mixed feelings on this. While it doesn't fully complete all of Walker's career, it has alot of his Khoury years and his Swallow years combined. Not a bad CD to have, just not as essential in my opinion. Also want to clarify the Lawrence CD, it's important for it's Swallow stuff. The Khoury stuff sounds better on the Cajun Honky Tonk CD.
18 - Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear 2011)
Dancehall era. One of the great CD compilations to have come out recently. 3CD set comes with plenty of library song information, as well as tons of songs completing all of the Feature/Fais-Do-Do label. Contains the earliest materials of Aldus, Shorty Leblanc, Happy with Doc Guidry, Lee Sonnier, early Austin Pitre, early Chuck Guillory with Papa Cairo and Jimmy Newman, Chester Peewee Broussard, hard to find stuff by Amede Breaux, Cleveland Mire, Lionel Cormier, early Robert Bertrand and more. Def needed in your library, not matter the high cost.
19 - Floyd's Early Cajun Singles (Ace 1999)
While Swallow began officially in 57, it wouldn't really take off until 1959, pressing a slew of recordings on the new 45 RPM medium. There's no complete compilation with the entire label, since they produced hundreds of recordings for decades!...mostly in the modern era. However, this CD does capture the earliest years between 57 and 60, with Joel Sonnier as a kid, Austin Pitre, Sidney Brown, Adam Hebert, Lawrence Walker, and Aldus Roger. This would re-kick off the careers into the 1960s of these musicians who left their previous contracts with Goldband and Feature records.
The following are honorable mentions, but I wouldn't include them in the essentials category. If you have extra $ around, then maybe pick them up to help complete your library....
20 - EDDIE SHULER & His All Star Revellers – Grand Mamou (BACM 2016)
21 - HAPPY FATS & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (BACM, 2009)
22 - JOE WERNER Early Cajun Artist (BACM, 2016)
These are respectible recordings, clearly important which many have never been released before, ... usually for good reason. They weren't stellar country recordings, but the CDs do contain the few Cajun recordings they released in their country music careers. While most of Happy's French singing can be found in the other compilations mentioned above, this does contains some never heard materials. The Eddie Shuler also has a few Cajun recordings he did, although it's missing his earliest one of Jolie Bonde for some reason. The Werner one will be mostly his country/string-band material. It's quite possible BACM does a Leo Soileau one next, but again, focusing mostly on his obscure string-band releases, usually sung in English.
23 - Swingbillies - Hillbilly & Western Swing On Modern/Colonial/Flair 1947-52 (Ace 2003)
Not quite an essential, but it does contain the hard to find Chuck Guillory and Papa Cairo recordings done on Modern/Colonial label in the 1950s. Not enough to make it a necessity.
24 - Raise Your Window: A Cajun Music Anthology 1928 - 1941
25 - Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology - The Historic Victor–Bluebird Sessions 1928–1941
These were released on LP years ago, but then were remastered on CD in 1990 and 1993. Still a good compiliation, however, almost everything can be found in the compilations I've listed above.
26 - Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
This contains alot of what was listed above, but has a few missing Breaux and Falcon materials to round off your collection including some Ardoin and Segura. Probably the best compilation of early Cajun at the time when it was issued in 1994.
With everything above, you have 99% of all early Cajun music at your fingertips.
Floyd Leblanc is the only early Cajun artist from the dancehall/swing era, I'd recommend for listeners, that you can't get a mostly complete compilation of, yet! I'd like to see that come out next. He worked directly with Iry for a bit and landed quite selection of songs over the years, yet sadly gets looked over. His Opera/OT material is sparsely issued. Same for Abe and Joe Manuel.
Sidney Brown is another. Would like to see a full set of his music out, not just the limited releases on the LP.
One of the last major compilation which has been needed for some time is a mostly complete Falcon/Breaux compilation, which really hasn't been undertaken until recently. Latest news is that 2017 is the year. I'll keep people updated.
There are recordings that exist which were poorly done during the early period that most likely will not see the light of day...mainly due to how bad the quality of the originals were. I'm talking about the 1949 DeLuxe sessions with Happy, Hackberry and the Billiots. Also, the poor sound quality of the Tanner pressings on Hot Rod and TNT. I've heard them already and while they would make a good discussion topic in a research paper, these would never sell well on CD if someone tried. Don't count on them to be released on CD anytime soon.
Of course, if you want other good CD compilations of later Cajun music (post 1960), all of the Swallow Cajun Pioneer Series CDs are good for libraries too. Plenty of later Cajun compilations could be listed here, which I haven't done.
See also: http://earlycajunmusic.blogspot.com/