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.
This is the stuff that makes me scratch my head. I know very little of music theory and chords and all that foreign stuff, but I do recognize that much of Allons a Lafayette is C chord heavy. But can't it be in key of G and still have a lot of C chords? And if it would be considered in C, what would "Lafayette Two Step" be? I always thought it was the C version of the G original.
"Lafayette Two Step" is indeed a C version of the original. But there are other differences too that are worth mentioning.
The singing parts and accordion parts in the Lafayette Two Step are identical, melody and harmony wise. The accordion does pretty much what the vocalist sings. And the chord progression stays the same throughout the tune, whether it is vocals or instrumentsls (F / C / G / C).
On the other hand, the Falcon version ("Allons a Luafette") features slightly different melodies for the singing part and accordion part, as well as different chord progressions.
Lafayette Two Step seems to be a simplified version of the Falcon tune (more repetitive). It is the version that is the most widely played today it seems (at least from my experience).
I have found Allons A Lafayette pretty easy to play on accordion, in whatever key that is, but I can get pretty tripped up Lafayette two Step's turn.
Dam Boudreaux, now that's what I call a complete and thorough breakdown! If the braves of the bravenet haven't learned "Allons a Lafayette" yet from this post, then I don't know what else can be done for them. If they choose to ignore all what has been said, they will be missing out.
Cleoma does hit that "D" chord on guitar. It's there. What makes me think that Cleoma was not an accomplished guitar player was her single beat strum rhythm. Or, that might have been the only kind of guitar rhythm she was aware of in her time period. She's not doing the 3 stroke rhythm on the guitar that good Cajun guitar players play today and have in the past. She was on rhythm with her single beat style, but she fell short with being on key or on the right chord at all times. I don't think she was a genius when it came to Cajun music. Maybe she hadn't been playing guitar for that long when they recorded. I think they both weren't familiar with playing this twisted version of "Jeune Genes de la Campagne" together.
It is one hell of a conundrum of a song. Much can be learned from it.
That point of view of yours is very interesting.
Cleoma does hit the D chord, but I'm pretty sure she does it only when Joe sings. When he plays, she seems to follow the C and G accordion chords. As you mention, she misses on one notable chord change. Right when the first accordion solo ends and Joe starts singing the first verse, Cleoma chills on the G chord when she should hit a C. Interestingly, she probably realizes her mistake at this very moment and hits a quick D chord (when Joe sings "pour changer..." to smooth out the transition to the following G chord. IMO this on the spot improvisation demonstrates a great sense of musicianship. To my ears, there's no other mistakes in the tune. Some chord choices might be interpreted as weird - especially for our modern calibrated ears - though. Most notably, choosing to backup the accordion part with mostly C chords, when the actual song is mostly in G adds a tension that is unusual.
Greezy, I beg to differ regarding your assessment of Cleoma's guitar skills tho. IMO she does a wonderful job. The rhythm is steady and solid, which really is all it counts!
Could you please elaborate on the 1 stroke pattern / 3 stroke pattern thing? I'm really not at all familiar with this nomenclature.
I think Cleoma (like most pioneers of guitar backup, whether it is Cajun or Old Time) was playing open chords thumb / upstroke style (the thumb playing the 1 and 3 beats on the low strings and the index or middle finger playing the 2 and 4 beats on the treble strings, in an upward movement, hitting the highest string first then the B and G strings). It is a very different style than the modern approach which is playing barre chords with the left hand and strumming with a pick on the right hand.
I also wondered about the "impromptu" nature of the "Allons a Luafette" recording. That's exactly how I thought before I investigated the tune more deeply. The tension and unusual chord changes might give an impression of unpreparedness. However, I honestly doubt they would have played a number they wouldn't have been familiar with. The missed chord change at the beginning was more likely a consequence of stress rather than amateurism.
Boudreaux, it sounds like she's banging her strings from top to bottom with no upstroke. She's one stroking it over and over again. That's what I meant. That's the way I played rhythm for Cajun music when I first started with the guitar. I didn't know better. Hell, I'd even stroke that big string at the top when I was playing all the chords. I found out later, I was only supposed to use that big top string for the "G" chord or picking it individually for the base backup in between chord strokes. I learned this after watching Christine Balfa play rhythm and base on the same guitar. Never could do what she can, but I come close enough. I seldom play guitar when the Cajun music breaks out. It's not my preference. My old mentor would not tolerate the rhythm guitar while he played accordion. The guitar player had to be real good for him to allow it. He specifically mentioned that if the guitar player didn't know the song well or wasn't too good and hit the wrong note on that guitar, it sometimes would make him (the old man) automatically switch to playing a different song on the accordion. It would mess with his ears he said. So instead, he preferred playing the living hell out of those base seconds on his accordion.
Greezy I'm pretty sure Cleoma plays in the old fashioned thumb style. Thumb plays the bass ("boom") and index plays the chord ("chuck") in an upward movement. No flatpick (perhaps a thumbpick + fingerpick?). Never seen anyone play like this these days, but that was the norm in the old days. It's a very percussive style.
Yep, a bad backup can f*** up a tune in no time.
Well said Nedro. I guess it comes off as such, but I'm not trying to discredit Steven Riley totally. I am however, using his name and what he has done as an example. Remember, I personally loved Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Bought every CD up to the 10th CD. Would follow them around like a lost kitten. I was there the night they got fired from ever playing again at the Whiskey River Landing.(I got the first hand scoop from the owner of the place.) I learned to play just like Steve Riley for many of those songs he redid. Then I had an epic realization when YouTube started to get hot on Cajun music. I realized that there were all kinds of accordion players mimicking Steve Riley, and I suddenly felt stupid for having done the same thing. I watched and listened as Kevin Naquin shamelessly copied Steve Riley's style lick for lick and actually re-recorded Steve Riley's songs on several of his own CD's. I mean really, how low can you actually go? I started to feel like I was in accordion hell! I told everyone I quit playing accordion and I saved them up high on the top shelf of our spare room closet so it was out of sight. I sold that got dam confounded Bb flat accordion as soon as I could because it represented Steve Riley. I had no other reason to have spent so much money on a Bb accordion.
After 5 years I began to get the itch. I was missing my accordion again. I grabbed it one day, my old reliable "D" accordion, and begin to play the original, traditional way I first learned to play, and a got dam lightning bolt went off in my head. Play the old style and only the old style! The style of the common old farmer / accordion player. The style that first attracted me to the accordion. The style of my Grandfather. His style was the style of the true masters. The True Accordion Kings.
And thanks for saying that Steven Riley learned from Marc Savoy. I never wanted to say that because I wasn't sure. I know Marc personally, and he never mentioned not once, not ever, to me or anyone else in the circle that he taught Steven how to play. But I knew Steven hung around him in his novice years. Someone purposely groomed Steve Riley to become an icon. I got dam well know he didn't learn what he learned from any of those cheesy, vague accordion instruction videos that these supposed Cajun accordion masters put out these days and back then. All designed to keep you chasing a carrot on a stick that you'll never catch. All designed to make you want more and be willing to pay for the next one. Steve Riley did the exact same thing with his instruction video. You shall know them by their works.
Just thought to rap it up with a documentary of the Falco'ns.