Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Home Sweet Home" - Breaux Brothers

Another great cajun musician from the old days, Amedie Breaux, along with his brothers Ophy, Clifford, and his sister Cléoma were sons and daughter of a great accordion player, Auguste Breaux. Auguste was never recorded but his sons made many sides under the name "Breaux Frères" from 1929 through 1934. The Breauxs were one of those big Louisiana family where Cajun music was passed down from father to son and all the children learned to play at a very young age. Amedie was the one who took the accordion.  He learned the instrument quickly, started to play at house-parties at age 14 and became a great player like his father.1

Amedie Breaux

In the fall of 1934, the Breaux brothers traveled to San Antonio, Texas for a recording session for Vocalion where they cut several titles, including this version of "Home Sweet Home."   Clifford Breaux is listed as the lead vocalist, with his brothers credited as additional vocalists.  According to Anthology of American Folk Music author Harry Smith, he points out that this version of the popular song is performed in waltz time:

A well known popular song is here played in waltz time, a dance of much greater importance to the French speaking rural population. The freedom with which the melody is treated, particularly in incorporating long downward runs, is also very typical of Louisiana.

Moi, j'm’en vas de la maison, 

Moi tout seul comme un pauvre, 

Malheureux, mais, c’est toi, 
R’garde, c’est dur après tout ça, 
Oh, c’est dur d'quitter,
Hé mignonne, petite fille,
De m’en aller, hé, tout seul,
Oh malheureux, oh chère, chagrin.

Ah,moi, j'm’en vas de la maison.

Ça c'est dur de m'en aller d'la maison, moi tout seul, 
En tournant , en disant c'tte mignonne fille, "Chère petite fille,
Ça c'est dur, j'ai quitté, chère mignonne, 
Petite fille, m'en aller à la maison, hé, pour ça!"

Ta maman et ton papan étaient contre moi,
Et c’est toi, par rapport à les conseils.
The “Home Sweet Home” (#02961) played by the Breaux Brothers is a very “Cajun-ized” version of a very famous song written in 1823 by dramatist and actor John Howard Payne with a melody by English composer Sir Henry Bishop (the later claimed that it was originally a “sieilian air”, a traditional melody from Sicily). Composed for Payne’s opera “Clari, maid of Milan”, the song became very popular throughout America and even abroad (It is known in Japan as “Hanyū no Yado”). With its beautiful and simple melody and its nostalgic lyrics (“There’s no place like home…”) it was a favorite among soldiers from both sides during the Civil War and of Abraham Lincoln and his wife.French-Canadian Joseph Allard recorded a version in 1928, set as a reel entitled "Quadrille de chez nous (Our House/Home Quadrille)", and again in 1945, this time as "Reel de Tadoussac."4  Like the Breauxs, songs like this influenced other Cajun musicians such as Leo Soileau.  He stated: 
When I first started playing, I learned "Home Sweet Home" and "Dixieland" like nobody's business.  I used to play that in school.5 

I'm going home,
All alone like a poor person,
Oh my, well, it's because of you.
Look, it's hard after all that
Oh, it's hard to leave,
Hey cuitie, little girl,
I'm leaving, hey, all alone,
Oh my, oh dear, it's sorrowful.

It's hard to go home alone,
Turning around, saying to that cute girl, "Dear little girl,
All of that is hard, I am leaving, dear cutie,
Little girl, I'm going away to the house, hey, because of all that."

Your mom and your dad were against me,
With you, because of the advice given.

Cowboys and frontier people loved to sing the song too and even made their own versions. It was also a favorite among opera singers and many versions were put on records during the early years of the phonograph.  The song was heard as well in many rural homes and entered the folk repertoire, both as a song and as an instrumental piece. In the South, it became a favorite number to play on the 5-string banjo, and bluegrass players included it in their repertoire.1

The Breaux Frères were not the only Cajun band to record “Home Sweet Home”. Versions can be found by Creole players like Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and the Carrière Brothers.

  3. Harry Smith.  Anthology of American Folk Music.  Liner notes.
  6. Lyrics by Jordy A
  7. NOTE:  Only a few Vocalion labels with the black lettering on a gold box design were ever issued.   This design only appears with a few issues and was short lived.  It is shown at the top.
Anthology Of American Folk Music Volume Two: Social Music (Folkways, 1967)
Pioneers of the Cajun Accordion (Arhoolie, 1989)
Cajun Vol. 1 Abbeville Breakdown 1929-1939 (Columbia, 1990)
Les Triomphes De La Country Music (Habana, 2002)
Shine on Me - Classic American Folk Songs and Anthems (Get Gone, 2014)

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