Monday, January 11, 2016

"Along The River" - Lee Sonnier

Credited as the first person to bring back the accordion into Cajun music after the war, Livaudais "Lee" Sonnier created some of the earliest post-war Cajun tunes on his father in law's Feature label.  J.D. Miller had his own hillbilly band at the time and decided to use his label to record his family.  One of the tunes, "Along The River" (#1041), is a Cajun French cover of a Hank Williams tune called "On the Bank of the old Pontchartrain" and sung by Elwood Dupuis.  With Elwood's undeniably rural Cajun vocal, pretty steel guitar, Sonnier's accordion poised in the background, and the delicious fiddle, it is the moving evocation of all that is at the heart of Cajun music.3

J’ai après marcher, ouais, au long de la rivière, 

Après échapper de la prison, 
Moi j’étais assis là, j'ai arrêté pour me reposer , 
Droite là, oui, au long de la rivière. 

Hé, la rivière!

La plus, ouais, belle fille mais que moi je veux jamais voir  ,
J’l’ai vu quand ça prise main à mouiller,
On a trouvé de l'abri, mais moi et elle, en bas l’même l’arbre,
Droite là, oui, au long de la rivière.   Ah, bon!

Un jour, il y a un homme qui a mis sa main dessus mon bras, 
Il dit pour attendre (pour) du temps encore,
Oui mais je l'ai laissé elle toute seule après pleurer,
Droite là, oui, au long de la rivière.
J.D. Miller
He starts the last line of each verse with "droite la" however, it seems this phrasing is similar to the French "près d’là" meaning "right there". Similar to Hank's song, Sonnier talks about escaping prison and finding a spot along a river.  It's the same spot he'd meet a girl as it began to rain, and the same spot he'd leave her crying to return to prison. 

By 1946, J.D. Miller's music career was ending.  Miller went from one band to another over the next few years—the Four Aces, the Rice City Ramblers, the Daylight Creepers. However, he stopped playing the night before his marriage to Georgia Sonnier, daughter of accordionist Lee Sonnier.1 

When I came out of the service, I went into business, I think it was '46, I went into electrical contracting.  By the time I bought me a store, I didn't have much left.  Of course, I was always interested in music anyhow, so I figured we would set us up in this field with a music department. And at that time I had numerous people who wanted French records.2
After walking, yeah, along the river,
After escaping from prison,
I was sitting there, I stopped to rest,
Near there, yes, along the river.

Hey, the river!

Furthermore, yeah, there's the most beautiful girl that I ever want to see,
I could see, well, it started to get wet,
We found some shelter, well, her and I, down by the same tree,
Near there, yes, along the river. Really!

One day, the man put his hand on my arm,
He says "You have more time to do",
Yes, well, I left her alone, crying,
Near there, yes, along the river.

  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  3. Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's.  Liner notes.
  4. Lyrics by Stephane F, Jerry M, and 'ericajun'
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

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