Pop & Rock

On The Bayou


During the mid-1960s, with sponsorship from the Newport Folk Foundation, music historian Ralph Rinzler traveled into the Louisiana bayou and captured a series of field recordings by the region's Cajun and Creole musicians. Culled from three years worth of tape, 27 tracks make up Louisiana Cajun And Creole Music: The Newport Field Recordings, originally released on Rounder in 1975 and re-issued on CD in September.

In his lifetime, Rinzler was American folk music personified. A musician, scholar, historian and champion of grassroots music, Rinzler founded the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, and maintained an involvement in the annual event until his death in 1994 at age 60.

The obscurity of the players Rinzler found for The Newport Field Recordings is the very thing that makes them the real deal. Deep within the tracks lie centuries worth of American, French, African and Caribbean influences that converged in a small cultural enclave and gave rise to some of the richest music in the Western Hemisphere.

The Balfa Freres conjure a stark and stirring mood with nothing more than two fiddles, a triangle and a simple vocal line in the "Danse de Mardi Gras." The arrangements are a bit more layered in the three songs by Austin Pitre & The Evangeline Playboys, including the rhythmically insistent "Les Flammes d'Enfer."

Even livelier is "Eunice Two-Step," by the duo of accordionist/vocalist Alphonse "Bois-Sec" Ardoin and fiddler Canray Fontenot. But, there's room for balladry too, as evidenced in Adam and Cyprien Landreneau's plaintive and haunting "La Prairie Ronde."

In addition to authentic Cajun and Creole music, the release also contains numerous photographs, extensive liner notes by various writers and other information in an 84-page pdf embedded in the disc.

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