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Re: Cleoma Falcon Created a got dam Maelstrom

Hey doodz.

Please stay on track, focused and polite, y'all. We are discussing the original "Allons a Luafette", aka "the first cajun tune". It is an important task and much has to be understood from this epitomical two-step. That being said, here is a report of my study of the tune.

Let me start by saying it is hard to decypher exactly which chords are played by Cleoma. Seems like the accordion and guitar are blended. I even tried some basic frequency shunting / boosting in order to isolate the guitar part but without any significant success. I actually had to listen to the tune again and again, trying to confirm / unconfirm my hypotheses. Now I think I have a decent understanding of the tune. At least decent enough to present to you the results of my informal study.

So first thing first. The accordion A part (the first part that Joe plays) is quite a bit different from the singing part, and Cleoma does not play the same chord progressions when the accordion is playing and when Joe is singing. The singing part is pretty obvious: it's in G and features the I (G), IV (C) and V (D) chords, in a C / G / D / G pattern. This is a fact of life and we'll all have to deal with it LOL. Now, Cleoma could totally have followed that very same pattern on the accordion part (that is what most modern versions of Allons a Lafayette do, same harmony for the instrumental and singing parts). But Cleoma actually does something more subtle (or so I think).

But now, we have to go back to the accordion thing (this is what really interests us, right?). I am positive that Joe Falcon played a C accordion on this recording. First, I doubt he ever had anything else. Would you believe Joe Falcon, right before heading to the Crescent City, standing in front of his accordion stable and wondering whether he should pick his C Monarch, or his F Sterling or.... Nah, this seems unrealistic really. Those old folks only had one, precious squeezebox. They did not live in the world of abundance and infinite choices that we're living today. Secondly, I can play note for note the accordion part on my C box (it's really pretty simple, if not bare bones basic for an accomplished player). Now, whether Joe played the tune in 1st of 2nd position is debatable. Since the singing part is in G, this suggests that the tune is played on the C accordion in the 2nd position (or "pull position"), in order to play in the key of G. This is what I mentioned in one of my previous post. This is a very sound and logical reasoning. However, Cajun music is far from being logical at times. It is a quirky beast and part of the quirkiness comes from the bisonoric / bichordal nature of the Cajun accordion, which limits the choice of notes and imposes which chords are being played on a melody. In the case of "Allons a Luafette", eventhough the singing melody is clearly in G, the accordion part is played mostly on the "push", suggesting a key of C tune. So basically, what we have here is a G tune that is played mostly on the "push" on a C accordion. Hopefully I'm still clear and y'all grasp my musings. For example, Joe finishes the accordion parts (A and B parts) on a big G note. Maybe he would have liked to squeeze a big G chord on the left hand (that's what the singing part does). But, as y'all know, one can't do that on a cajun accordion, since the G note is necessarily on the push (except for the first button, but let's not talk about that) and that means the left hand is ringing a C chord. Anyways, what this (complex I admit) demonstration highlights is that the concept of "position" is sometimes irrelevant, or unable to capture the complexity of cajun accordion playing (Greezy McGill wisely mentioned this in another post).

Okay, now back to the guitar part. As we've just seen, the accordion part of "Allons a Luafette" is played mostly on the push on a C accordion. Cleoma could have most likely played exactly the same singing part chord progression (C / G / D / G) on the accordion part. BUT, what Cleoma actually does is way more subtle and in a way brilliant. Disclaimer: I'm reasonably confident about the veracity of my findings, but can't be 100% sure. It is mighty hard to hear the backup when the accordion is playing so... take what I say with a grain of salt. To my ears, Cleoma backs up the accordion using only C and G chords, following quite closely the chords that Joe is playing. In a nutshell, when Joe pushes, Cleoma plays a C chord, and switches to a G chord when Joe pulls the bellows. The difference in harmony for the singing and accordion parts adds a unique richness to the tune IMO. Especially since the accordion part has lotsa C chording, whereas the singing part is in the key of G, thus creating a sense of tension.

Now, I hope that these ramblings are useful to some of you and will give you the itch to pick up your accordion and play "Allons a Lafayette" the old Falcon's way. It still remains such a cool tune.

Jamey Hall's most excellent Cajun Accordion Music Theory

Brett's all new Cajun Accordion Music Theory for all keys!

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