Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)" - Hackberry Ramblers

The Hackberry Ramblers were an influential Cajun group based in Hackberry, Louisiana, a small town in the southwestern portion of the state. The group was founded by fiddler Luderin Darbone and accordionist Edwin Duhon in 1933. While the group is famous for their interpretations of traditional Cajun music, they also perform western swing, blues, and rockabilly.
Moi, j'connais,
Ma 'tite fille.
T'es la bas dans l'grand bois tout seule.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Avec ma fille.
Floyd Shreve, Luderin Darbone,
Danny Shreve, Claude "Pete" Duhon

"Dans Le Grand Bois" is a Cajun song that borrows the melody of "Jolie Blonde," a song first recorded by Les Breaux Freres as "Ma Blonde Est Partie." The personnel of the Hackberry Ramblers on this recording is Luderin Darbone on fiddle, Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars, and Claude "Pete" Duhon Sr. on string bass and vocal. Whether Pete Duhon was a relative of Edwin Duhon is not clear. 

I know,

My little girl,

You're over there in the forest, all alone,

I'm going into the big forest,

I'm going into the big forest,

With my girl.

Recorded for Bluebird in New Orleans in 1938, "Dans Le Grand Bois" (#2059) reflects the influence of non-Cajun music, particularly country and western swing. Pete/Edwin Duhon's lead vocal includes the distinctive vocal yelp towards the end of each line, so often associated with Cajun music.1  By 1947, Luderin would be contacted by DeLuxe records to re-record the tune.  This time, the band added Grover Heard on lead guitar, original member Edwin Duhon on bass,  Lefty Boggs on drums, Gary Major on sax, and Neil Roberts on trumpet. According to Henry Wright, a fellow old time music enthusiast:
The...lyrics seem to evoke a visit or a date in the woods.  To me this suggest the singer is telling us about a date or rendez-vous with a woman in a secluded spot, perhaps in or near the bayou, taking into account that it is a Cajun song.1

Louisiana Cajun Music Volume 8: The Hackberry Ramblers - Early Recordings 1935-1948 (Old Timey, 1988)
Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4 (Revenant, 2000)
Cajun Early Recordings (JSP, 2004)
American Folk Music, Vol. 1 (Classic, 2009)
American Folk Stories (Shami Media, 2014)
The Pioneers of Country, Vol. 3 (Shami Media, 2014)
Folk in America, Vol. 2 (Shami Media, 2015)

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