* With apologies to the Makis for nicking their title.
Bonjoower mes Amys.
I am a feeling a little low at the moment and, as is often the case, I turn to music to add a little “Cherry uppyness” to the day.
Last night I was trawling through my i-pod looking for cheery tunes ( Nick Cave…nope…Lenny Cohen…nope..) and began to play a some Cajun songs.
I noticed , after a few mins, that my feet were involuntarily tapping away ( old age, possibly). There is something about Cajun music that bypasses my “brain” (as I like to think of it) and goes straight to the toes.
So I thought I’d dig a few out for anyone else in need of some cheering up. Here are some of my faves from my collection.
We’ll start with what may be described as the “Cajun national anthem” as song that is, pretty much, in the DNA of every Cajun musician . I refer, of course to Jole Blon and here it is in it’s original incarnation by Harry Choates. Harry had a pretty tough life and, sadly, like Hank Williams drank his talent and life away far to young.
Next up the first of two from a chap who has been called “The Cajun Hank Williams”, not on account of his boozing but because his songs are, possibly, a bit more “lyrical” than the average Cajun song . Cajun music is dance music on the whole. It comes in two flavours “Waltz” ( 1.2.3-1.2.3) and “Two Step” which tends to be the faster of the two.
Here , then is D.L Menard and the Louisiana Aces with “The Back Door”. Probably my all time top Cajun song, it tells the tale of a miscreant creeping home in the morning after a night on the tiles and using the back door in the hope that the missus won’t notice.
I think it fair to say that the people of the Cajun country regard themselves as a little special. Somewhat different from the average American and, and I hope they won’t mind me saying this, should any be reading, a little on the wild side.
This, I think, is reflected in their songs. They are very much “backwater” tunes, dealing with rural matters, love, fishing and having a good time. One of the wildest tunes in my collection is Hee Haw Breakdown by Nolan Cormier which, I think I can safely say, contains the best impression of an ass that I have ever heard in a recorded work. Absolutely bonquers.
On artist that always cheers me when I am down in the dumps is Nathan Abshire. This is kind of ironic because Nathan’s day job was custodian of the town dump in Basile , Louisiana where he lived most of his life. His was the first Cajun record I ever bought, a single that attracted me, even though I was in full “punk” mode at the time, by looking so out of place and strange among all the others in Virgin Records. I’ve still got it, blue Swallow label looking like something from the 1950s and the weird titles. Here he is with another all time “hit”, a song played by nearly every Cajun band J’ai etai au balle. I defy anyone to keep their toes still when this song plays.
Somewhat different in style and closer, perhaps, to Rock and Roll than trad Cajun , we next have Johnnie Allen with South to Louisiana ( or Seeoufff to Lousianne, as it’s sung) a take on Johnny Horton’s North to Alaska which I love because of the daft lyrics. This is the only one of our songs today that doesn’t use the traditional Cajun band instruments ( fiddle, accordian, triangle *)
Back to D.L Menard and the Aces now for a lovely song which I have always had a soft spot for. This is more “ballad” in style and tells of a lovely Cajun girl who is, alas, too young to get married. It’s called Rebecca Anne. My wife speaks fluent French and has tried to translate the words to some of the songs by Cajun French is unique and she can’t always get the full meaning.
Last up, a song that had I been playing, would have made the nominations for this weeks Mothership. Carney Doucet with Hold my false teeth and I’ll show you how to dance. Unsurprisingly this is a lively number and very typical of Cajun dance music.
Hope you enjoyed them and , as they say down on the Bayou “Laissez les bons temps rouler”
* Yes, really.