Friday, March 31, 2017

"Texas Waltz" - Nathan Abshire

In 1954, with new vigor, Nathan Abshire refreshed his band's lineup and waxed several more tunes for George Khoury in Lake Charles.  "Texas Waltz" (#645) on Khoury's label was a later recording, re-working the melody of his earlier "Kaplan Waltz".   However, it never really took off.  The melody comes from the Angelus Lejeune's 1929 recording of "La Valse de Pointe Noire",  Dudley and James Fawvor as "La Valse De Creole" in 1928 and Amede Ardoin's "Valse De Ballard".   

Hé tu m'as quitté pour t'en aller dans grand Texas,
Chère 'tit monde, ne fais pas ça,
Moi je connais te vas voir ton erreur.

Hé, chère 'tite fille tu vas r'venir dans la Louisiane,
Ça sera trop tard, mais, peut me te voir,
D’écouter les conseils de tous les autres.

Ambrose Thibodeaux, Merlon Fontenot,
Nathan Abshire
First Festival Acadians, 1974
by Turner Browne
American Folklife Center Collection

Inspired by Harry Choates' "Jole Blon", Nathan used the same lyrical theme, even later covering the tune as "The New Jole Blon".  His new members are difficult to determine, but from what has been listed, it seems to be possibly Jake Mire on steel guitar, possibly Ernest Thibodeaux on rhythm guitar, possibly Jim Baker on bass guitar, possibly Shelton Manuel on drums, and either Dewey Balfa or Cleveland "Cat" Deshotel on fiddle.

Hey, you left me, went away to big Texas,
Dear little everything, do not do that,
I know you'll see your mistake. 

Hey, dear little girl, you'll return to Louisiana,
It will be too late, well, to see you,
Listen to the advice of all of us.

A similar attempt using the Kaplan melody would be done by Abe Manuel and Jelly Elliot known as "Ville Platte Waltz". 

  1. Lyrics by Jerry M and Stephane F
Nathan Abshire & the Pine Grove Boys - French Blues (Arhoolie, 1993)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Gran Prairie" - Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc

The lively character and musician, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc. It's one of the Happy's more well known tunes, converting a popular melody into a country string band song.  Happy and fiddler Harry Choates had a short and tumultuous stint in 1940 when their group recorded a slew of songs for Bluebird records.  However, like many bands that worked with Harry, it didn't last.  His drinking and loose lifestyle was too erratic for Happy's style.  While together briefly, they headed to the Jefferson Hotel in Dallas, Texas to record "Gran Prairie" (#2081).  Grand Prairie is a rural region of St. Landry Parish between Opelousas and Ville Platte.  Here, the song which would eventually become Hank William's "Jambalaya" became an ode to this region.

Moi j'm'en va chère p'tite fille pour toujours,

Ouais là-bas z'à Grand Prairie malheureux,

Rappelle-toi malheureuse ma p'tite fille,

Tous les misères qu'tu m'as fait, jolie coeur.

Moi j'm'en va chère p'tite fille pour toujours,

Ouais là-bas z' à Grand Prairie malheureux,

Ouais là-bas malheureuse au bout du monde,

Moi j'm'en va z'à Grand Prairie,

C'est mon pays.

Eric Arceneaux, Louis Arceneaux, Happy Fats
1936 Blue Goose Dancehall2

The first recording of this melody as a Cajun tune was by the Guidry Brothers called "Le Garcon Negligent" in 1929.   As a direct influence from the Jolly Boy's "Abbeville", the tune foreshadows Papa Cairo's use of the tune in his recording of "Grand Texas", or "Big Texas", in years to come.   It would be no surprise that Happy heard the melody since he had previously worked with Red Fabaucher of the Jolly Boys and Papa Cairo of the Louisiana Rounders.  Both had used the melody in their tunes, including Papa Cairo's "Alons Kooche Kooche" several years earlier.  The song contains a quick fiddle ride by a relatively unknown fiddle player at the time known as Harry Choates.  The rest of the band contained Sandy Lormand on guitar, Joseph M. "Pee Wee" Broussard on banjo, Ray Clark on steel guitar and Harold Broussard on piano.  

I, myself, will go, dear little girl, forever,

Yes, over there to Grand Prairie, oh my,

Remember how unhappy you were, my little girl,

All the misery which you made for me, pretty heart.

I, myself, will go, dear little girl, forever,
Yes, over there to Grand Praire, oh my,
Yes, over there, oh my, to the end of the world,
I, myself, will go to Grand Prairie,
It's my countryside.
Sandy would go on to play with Happy for several years including Doc Guidry's Sons of the South band.  Pee Wee Broussard would tour with Harry Choates and in an interview with Kevin Coffey, stated:
[Harry] never looked for what could happen tomorrow.  He lived for today.1

  1. Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  2. Rayne's People and Places By Tony Olinger


Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Gran Prairie: Cajun Music Anthology, Vol. 3: The Historic Victor Bluebird Sessions (Country Music, 1994)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Cajun Capers: Cajun Music 1928-1954 (Proper, 2005)
The Beginner's Guide to Cajun Music (Proper/Primo, 2008)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Convict Waltz" - Iry Lejeune

Amede Ardoin influenced Cajun musicians for years after he death.  Like many of Iry Lejeune's tunes, the Convict Waltz is based on an Amede Ardoin tune, this time entitled "Valse a Abe" recorded in December 1929 for Columbia (#40511).  However, the first instance of this melody would be released one month prior to Ardoin by the duo Bartmon Montet & Joswell Dupuis in New Orleans entitled "L'Abandonner (The Forsaken)" for Victor records (#22211).  Also known as either "99 Year Waltz" or "La Valse De Quatre-Vingt-Dix-Neuf Ans", Iry recorded his version of the song for the Folk Star label (#1195) and it was released in 1954.

Iry would be partnered with Alfred "Duckhead" Cormier on guitar and Cajun fiddler Wilson Granger.  Granger's first stint with Iry was around 1948 when Earl Demary occasionally would hire Iry to join the Musical Aces for dances around Lake Charles and southeast Texas.  He recalls recording several songs with Lejeune, recording with Ed Shuler far from the Goldband Studios:
We made those records at Iry's house.  He had the recorder on the kitchen table.2  
Iry Lejeune
Iry sang as if two centuries of Acadian hardship were gushing out of him and him alone. The phrase "condemned for 99 years", signifying being condemned forever, sometimes meant a physical sentence, but usually, it was a metaphor for an emotional imprisonment.  His wonderfully full and melodic accordion was usually backed by a simple guitar and fiddle.  He expressed that he wanted to record the tune before he died.

Oh, moi je m'en vas, condamne pour quatre vignt dix-neuf ans,
C'est juste rapport aux paroles toi, t'as dit qui m'a fait soufert aussi longtemps pour ca.

Oh, tout les soirs,
Moi, je me couche avec des larmes dans mes yeux,
C'est pas de toi, bebem je m'ennuuie autant,
C'est des chers enfants j'connais qui miserent.

Oh, tite fille c'est pas la peine,
Tes menteries vont rester sur ta conscience,
La verite va peut-etre te fair du mal,
Mais quelqu'un va toujours te recompenser.
Wilson Granger

Previously, Alphee Bergeron had used the melody for his tune he called "Eunice Waltz" in 1948.  The title would be re-used later as a different song.  Aldus Roger had worked the melody into his "Lifetime Waltz" around the previous year for Eddie Shuler and Bob Tanner's TNT label.  In 1959, Huey Meaux and Andrew Cormier recorded the song for the Jin label.  In the 1960s, Milton Molitor, along with Austin Pitre, would use the melody of "Valse de Bambocheur" and give it the name "99 Year Waltz" for Dr. Harry Oster's field recordings. Later, many others would record the tune such as the Balfas and Vin Bruce.
I'm going, condemned for 99 years,
It's just because of the words you told me,
That make me suffer so long for that.

Every night I go to bed with tears in my eyes,
It's not you I miss so much,
It's my dear children, who are miserable.

Oh, my dear, it's no use,
Your lies will stay on your conscience,
The truth may hurt you,
But someone will always pay you back.
The lyric "te recompenser" translates to "pay you back" but in this context, it seems to be a cynical response, more along the lines of "you always think you're right". The wronged lover in "The Convict Waltz" implies that the words spoken by this woman have caused his imprisonment.  Everything he did had a poignant beauty; joyful in tune but sad in lyric.  Shuler recalls:
He could squeeze in more notes and still sound smooth and easy.  He could take a verse and stick in triplets and finger executions that no other Cajun artist ever managed.  Even his songs were different, his songs told a story with reasonable situations.3
Eddie would later release the song on 45 RPM, first on the flipside of "Don't Get Married" (#1219) using the maroon Folk-Star label and later on the flipside of "La Fille La Vove" (#1195) using his yellow Goldband label.


  1. Iry Lejeune: Wailin the Blues Cajun Style by Ron Yule
  2. Louisiana Fiddlers By Ron Yule
  3. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven
  4. Cajun and Creole Music Makers
  5. Musiciens Cadiens et Créoles - Rigide / the Makers of Cajun Music By Barry Jean Ancelet

Release Info:

-A (2587) Don't Get Married | Folk-Star GF-1195-A

-B (2588) (1219-2) Convict Waltz | Folk-Star GF-1195-B

-1 La Fitte La Vove | Goldband G-1219-1

-2 Convict Waltz | Goldband G-1219-2

The Legendary Iry LeJeune (Goldband, 1991)
As Good As It Gets: Cajun (Disky, 2000)
American French Music (Goldband, 2000)
Iry Lejeune: Cajun's Greatest: The Definitive Collection (Ace, 2003)

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

The personnel of the Hackberry Ramblers on this 1938 recording of "Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)" (#2059) 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)

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Rayne Special" - Joe Falcon

Joe Falcon grew up in the prairies north of Rayne, Louisiana.  Rayne is a town seated between Crowley and Lafayette in south Louisiana.  It was known for it's large frog exporting industry in the first half of the 20th century.  Growing up there, he learns to play the accordion as a child:

When I was seven years old, we begged our daddy to go to Lafayette. First we begged him to get us an accordion.  We couldn't play it in the house so we went to the barn and started playing it in the barn.4  

Most of his childhood involved helping his father and his uncles farm sugarcane.   Sugar syrup mills in the area were big business.

John Falcon, Abel and also my daddy, Pierre Falcon.  They all had syrup mills.  They all raised sugar cane.4  

Dis, mon neg, dis donc quand même, 

Mais, cher tit nèg mais, malheureux. 

Dis jamais, mais toi mon neg, 

Tu connais mais, moi je m’en vas. 

Comment j'vas faire, mais, toi mon neg, 

Comment j'vas faire, mais oui, mon neg, 
Tu connais, cher tit nèg, 
Dis pas ça à ton cher vieux nég.

Moi j’espère, oui mon nèg, 
Tu connais bien mais malheureuse, 
Si jamais, oui mon nèg, 
Si jamais, z-as toi de faire. 

Faudra que j’men vas, mais oui mon nèg, 
Faudra que j’men vas, mais tu connais, 
Oui mon nèg, mais, ça c’est dur,
Pour moi partir mais tout seul.
Cleoma Breaux and Joe Falcon

In Joe's song, clearly the love interest is no longer interested; declining his offer for either a hand in marriage or just plane uninterested. Rayne was a rural farm community, originally called Pouppeville.  Shortly after the Civil War, French immigrant Monsieur Jules Pouppe established a small mercantile store adjacent to the stagecoach line “exchange station” on the long-established Old Spanish Trail (OST) which trekked westward from New Orleans across the great prairie of SW Louisiana into Texas.1  However, since he realized the town was too far south, he used oxen to move the houses and buildings near present-day Rayne.   The Louisiana Western Railroad built the Rayne station in 1880 and three years later, named it after the railroad engineer who laid the track, B.W.L. Rayne.2  

They left the winter of 1934 to record in New York City where they waxed the "Rayne Special" (#17006) for Decca records. By 1936, Joe and his wife Cleoma had left Rayne, settled in Crowley and were playing music across south Louisiana.  The following year, Joe re-recorded the tune, changing the melody slightly and the title to "Louisiana Special" (#17038).   The duo remained living in Crowley, mainly because Cleoma preferred the city life rather than Joe's meager rural homestead area of north Rayne.   However, it didn't stop him from trying to raise a small farm in the backyard of their Crowley home.   For Joe, Rayne would always be considered his home. 

Said it, my friend, said it nonetheless,

Well, my dear little friend, well, oh my,

You shouldn't have said that, well, my friend,

You know, well, I'm going.

How will I do this, well, you, my friend,

How will I do this, well, yeh, my friend,
You know, my dear little friend,
Don't say that to your dear old man.

I'm waiting, yes, my friend,
You understand well, well oh my,
If you ever, yeh my friend,
If you ever have to go through this.

I'll have to go, well yeh, my friend,
I'll have to go, well, you know,
Yes, my friend, well, it's hard,
For me to leave all alone. 

By the start of WWII, Decca changed their label from the "sunburst" blue to what's referred to as the "cursive" black based on the logo and color change.  Records produced during the war (from either shellac sources bought openly on the market or from shellac reserve) had a scripted logo colored in black and gold lettering.3

  4. Lauren Chester Post Papers, Mss. 2854, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi
  5. Lyrics by Stephane F


Cajun: Rare & Authentic (JSP, 2008)
Cajun Music, The Pretty Girls Don't Want Me (Firefly, 2012)
Cajun Swamp Stomp, Vol 1 (Lumi, 2012)
The Very Best of Cajun: La Stomp Creole, Vol. 1 (Viper, 2016)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Yes I Love You" - Harry Choates

Deviating slightly from traditional Cajun music, it should be noted that jazz influenced many of the Cajun musicians before WWII.   Harry Choates made such a name for himself with his fiddle that many don't realize his side musical abilities were with a guitar.   Having played guitar with Shelly Lee and his Alley Cats several years before the war, it's no surprise he'd eventually pick up his guitar again for a few recordings.    It's a rare glimpse of the jazz guitar stylings which Harry had relied upon before his famous fiddle tune "Jole Blon" took off.   

Joe and Abe Manuel had started the Melody Boys during the 1940s and brought along Joe's wife Johnnie Mae Smyrle as their pianist.  She's one of the few female musicians playing in a Cajun-style band at the time.  Because many women weren't considered very "lady-like" for playing in smoke-filled, drunken honky-tonk bars at the time, very few stepped up to play music into male-dominated groups like Johnny did.

Johnnie Ruth Manuel and
Harry Choates

Sometimes referred to as "I Love You, I Love You", Johnnie stepped away from the piano and sang a swingy version of the song entitled "Yes I Love You" (#1010) for Jimmy Mercer's "Cajun Classics" label in 1947.   Possibly recorded in Mercer's shop with Esmond Pursley on rhythm guitar and B.D. Williams on bass, he pressed the record in the studio building.   Occasionally, you can hear Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons on steel in the background.  Very little is known about her musical creativity and it's quite possible this recording is an original.

You know I tried so hard I can't seem to beget,

I'm so lost without you since you went away,

You say that you don't want me, but still I must sing,

I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

Everyday together, keep making me blue,

Thought it would be better to find someone new,

With not a day I keep thinking of you,
Cause I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

Over and over, I tried to forget,
I said I was through with romance,
I tried to tell my heart I won't worry or fret,
Maybe someday there maybe a chance, oh.

I'll keep right on hoping to (?) roll away,
I'll keep right on praying for that lucky day,
Hope will hold me tightly, darling and sing,
I love you, I love you, yes, I love you.

While his fine, Cliff Bruner-inspired fiddling dominated on records, many recalled Choates' fiery, Djangoesque swing guitar.  He once talked his way into sitting in on guitar with renowned (and countryphobic) west coast jazz bandleader Stan Kenton during a Texas show. Kenton and his sophisticated sidemen expected a laugh. Harry's soloing dazzled them instead.1

  2. Label scan by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Cajun and Creole Music Collection - Special Collections
Harry Choates: Five-Time Loser 1940-1951 (Krazy Kat, 1990)
Top 45 Classics: The Very Best Of Harry Choates (GRR Music, 2014)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Les Blues De Voyage" - Amede Ardoin & Dennis McGee

In 1934, the end of the Depressions kicked off a new wave of early Cajun recording sessions. Yet, almost all of these major labels had retired from making Cajun records except RCA Victor.   In order to capture the rural southern music market, they hired A&R man Eli Oberstein and began offering their new Bluebird label to stores featuring many of the artists previously recorded by Columbia/Okeh. In August 1934, Bluebird's sound engineers had summoned a variety of these regional folk musicians to the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, including Amede Ardoin and Dennis McGee.   One of these songs they record is "Les Blues De Voyage" (#2189).  It's a song covered by many Creole artists of the time including Bois Sec Ardoin and Canray Fontenot as "Blues du Voyageur".

O, tous mes parents veulent pas,

O, qui c'est je vas faire avec toi,

O, j'suis pas proche près partir,

O, c'est mon tout seul, 

Moi, tout seul,

Je sais pas quand jamais que je vas revenir,

O, toi, tu me fais de la misère,

Je vas pas venir te voir.

O, tous mes parents veulent pas,

O, que moi je vas chez toi,

O, c'est par rapport à toi,

Moi, je m'en vas,

N'importe éou je vas aller, catin,

Tous les autres veulent pas me voir,

Boy, j'ai pas d'argent,

O,cest mon tout seul, moi, tout seul, 
Je sais pas quand jamais que je vas revenir, 
O, toi, tu me fais de la misère, 
Je vas pas venir te voir, 
O, tous mes parents veulent pas, 

O, que moi je vas, chez toi, 
O, cest par rapport toi, 
Moi, je m'en vas, 
Nimporte ou je vas aller, catin, 
Tous les autres veulent pas me voir, 
Boy, jai pas dargent. 

O, toi, petite fille je m'en vas, 
O, dans la maison tout seul, 
O, cest pas la peine tu me fais tout,
A tas fait avec moi, 
Jai pas dargent, 
J'ai pas de maison pour aller, 
O, éou je vas rester? 
Daily Advertiser
Sep 14, 1934

The phrase "Moi, je m'en vas" may seem redundant to the ears of standard French speakers.  However, Creoles commonly emphasized themselves in statements, almost by habit.  It seems odd to place the word "moi" before the statement starting with "je", however, even English speakers do the same.  It would be the equivalent of placing importance about one's self such as "I, myself, am leaving".

On all six of the tracks produced that day in San Antonio, there is a form of discrete yet primal percussion. It is a simple sound that was surely common in the performance of such music at social functions, but it had never before, or after, been captured on any of Ardoin's recordings.  It simply came from the rhythms of the accordionist deliberately tapping his foot, the most organic form of percussion.  The Texas session serves as a kind of symbolic harbinger of the role that percussive effects would take in the subsequent history of recorded black Creole music.1  Author Jared Snyder discusses this further: 
Eli Oberstein at the
Texas Hotel, 1935
(next to recording light)

Eli Oberstein, the A&R man for Bluebird and in charge of the recording session, chose not to damp the sound of Ardoin's foot tapping in time to the music.  It was a critical part of the performance and was something normally eliminated by recording on carpeted floor.2

Oberstein's unusual engineering decision produced a sonic document that replicates more accurately the way Creole music would have been performed and heard at social events.1  As musicians were preparing to record, Eli would setup a small microphone and a "recording light" lamp on the floor. This allowed musicians like Ardoin to know when to start and eventually when to stop playing.  

Oh, none of my relatives want anything to do with me,

Oh, what am I gonna do with you? 

Oh, I'm not nearly ready to leave,

Oh, it's me alone. 

Me, all alone,

I don't know if I'm ever gonna come back,

Oh, you cause me so much misery,

I'm not gonna come see you.

Oh, none of my relatives want anything to do with me,

Oh, I'm going home,

Oh, it's because of you,

Me, I'm going,

No matter where go, little doll,

No one else wishes to see me,

Boy! I have no money.

Oh, I'm all alone, on my own,
I do not know when I'll ever come back
Oh, you, you make me feel miserable,
I am going to come see you,
Oh, all my relatives want anything to do with me.

Oh, I'm going to your house,
Oh, it's because of you,
Me, I'm going,
No matter where go, little doll,
No one else wishes to see me,
Boy! I have no money.

Oh, you little girl, I'm going,
Oh, back to my house all alone,
Oh, it's no use for you to do anything,
All you've done to me,
I have no money,
I have no house to go to,
I have no work to help me stay,
Oh, where will I stay?
Author Roger Wood of Texas Zydeco writes about Ardoin's blues:
Of special significance, the title of two of the songs include the magic word "blues," suggesting the early synthesis of traditional Cajun material with African American forms.  "Les Blues de Voyage" and "Les Blues de Crowley".  Both songs are reminiscent of the crudely emotive style common in early country blues recorded during the same era in the Mississippi Delta.1 
Author Scott Aiges writes:
His 1934 recording with fiddler Dennis McGee of the achingly melancholy "Les Blues de Voyage" ("I have no money/I have no means to leave/I have no work for which to stay/Oh, where will I make a new start?") has the same raw, loopy and insistent rhythm as zydeco stalwart Boozoo Chavis' recordings from the 1950s.3  

  1. Texas Zydeco By Roger Wood
  2. Southeast Texas: Hot House of Zydeco by R. Wood.  Jared Synder
  4. Image by Russ S

Release Info:
Les Blues De Voyage | Bluebird B-2189-A
Valse De Amities | Bluebird B-2189-B

Le Gran Mamou: A Cajun Music Anthology -- The Historic Victor-Bluebird Sessions, 1928-1941 (Country Music Foundation, 1990)
I'm Never Comin' Back: The Roots of Zydeco (Arhoolie, 1995)
Cajun Louisiane 1928-1939 (Fremeaux, 2003)
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)
Mama, I'll Be Long Gone : The Complete Recordings of Amede Ardoin, 1929-1934 (Tompkins Square, 2011)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"C'est Si Triste Sans Lui (It Is So Blue Without Him)" - Cleoma Breaux

An extremely bluesy number, Joe Falcon knew how to turn the accordion into an agonizing melody, expressing misery and despair as no other Cajun accordionist could.  He and his wife-to-be, Cleoma Breaux, traveled to Atlanta, this time with her brothers.  As the duo sat in a make shift studio in Atlanta, Cleoma Breaux recorded one of their more obscure songs during their session.   It's a sorrowful cry for one's love to return.  

Le seul homme j’aimais,
Il m’a quitté moi toute seule,
Pour s’en aller avec une autre que moi,
Oh, moi j’prends ça si dur,
Moi j’prie jour et nuit pour il s’en revienne avec moi.

Oh je vois pas quoi j’ai fait,
Pour il m’quitte dans tous les chagrins,
Il m’a dit ça j’avais fait pouvait donc jamais (z)oublier,
J’ai donc prié jour et nuit,
Pour lui s’en revienne avec moi.

Quand il a quitté la maison,
Il m’a dit de l’observer,
Pardon(?) moi j’avais fait pouvait donc jamais l’oublier,
Il m’a dit d’attacher le crèpe noir sur la porte,
Parce que lui, il aurait jamais r’venu.

Cleoma Breaux
"C'est Si Triste Sans Lui"
By Megan Barra

Hearkening back to the "unhappy love" theme, "C'est Si Triste Sans Lui" tells the story of a girl abandoned by her lover.  Her reference to a "crèpe noir", a black funeral cloth, signifies the importance of the loss as similar to the death of a loved one.  The song's sentimental lyric is completely subverted by the raucous performance which features Cléoma Breaux on vocal and guitar, Joe Falcon on accordion, and Cléoma's brother Ophy on a barely audible fiddle (not listed on the original label, even though Ophy Breaux is credited).1 "C'est Si Triste Sans Lui" (#40508) was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia on April 18, 1929, the day before Falcon and Breaux recorded "Acadian One Step."1

The only man I ever loved,

has left me all alone,

He ran off with somebody else,

Oh, I'm taking this so hard,

I pray day and night that he'll come back to me.

I don't know what I did wrong,

For him to leave me with all this pain,

He said he did it so I'd never forget,

I pray day and night,

That he'll come back to me.

When he left the house,

He told me to take a good look at him,
He said he was doing this so I'd never forget,
He told me to hang black fabric over the door,
Because he was never coming back.

Her vocals were stellar and Joe's accompaniment filled the song, allowing for Cleoma's beauty as a person and musician to shine.  Fiddler Dennis Mcgee described Cleoma:

A beautiful little woman with black frizzy hair, black, black eyes and white, white skin.  Joe Falcon was lucky to have her.2

  3. Lyrics by Marc C
Cajun Dance Party: Fais Do-Do (Legacy/Columbia, 1994)
Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997)
Les Cajuns Best Of 2002 Les Triomphes De La Country Volume 12 (Habana, 2002)
Prends Donc Courage - Early Black & White Cajun (Swamp Music Vol. VI) (Trikont, 2005)
American Folk Music, Vol. 4 (Classic, 2009)
The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection (Sony, 2015)