Louisiana’s Finest

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Cajun Dance (World Music Network RGNET 1139 CD, 2004)

Though not much of a dancer myself, I always enjoy a tranche of Cajun music,
whether of the slower, broken-hearted ‘valse’ variety or the more energetic,
stomping kind. It’s great music for when you’re driving too. This compilation
ranges from older practitioners like D.L. Menard and Dewey Balfa to the
relatively new keepers of the flame, such as La Bande Feufollet and Magnolia
Sisters. Whilst stylistically the music shares a number of similarities there
are enough individual approaches to ensure he album isn’t too much of the same

Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys are an exhilarating bunch
who mix some country and zydeco in with the essential ingredients of the Cajun
sound, with accordion and fiddle to the fore, as you’d expect. They kick off the
proceedings and set the pace with the accordion driven ‘My True Love’.

The Magnolia Sisters felt that there was a need for women’s
voices to be heard in the music but there isn’t an attempt to use the music as a
female mouthpiece. ‘Dedans Le Sud De La Louisiane’ utilizes fiddles, a lively
swing and some spirited vocals to take the listener through a kind of ‘rough
guide’ to the territory and culture. Meanwhile, relative newcomers, Feufollet
begin ‘McGee’s Medley’ with a combination of fiddles and minimalist percussion
before erupting into something more robust to demonstrate the kind of music
needed to get a crowd to its feet on a Saturday night.

Keeping the tradition alive, as their name might imply,
Balfa Toujours offer up a powerful, unadulterated mix of bedrock Cajun sounds
while Steve Riley returns with the more mournful sounding ‘La Toussaint’. The
somewhat emotive vocals and slower tempo suggest that this may be for the more
sedate dancers or simply for those who want to listen. Also firmly rooted in the
tradition are D. L. Menard, who is apparently known as the ‘Cajun Hank
Williams’, and Donald Thibodeaux. I don’t think the Williams comparison is that
obvious but his slightly nasal delivery is supported by the usual suspects.
Accordionist, Thibodeaux and the band Cajun Fever close the cd with a rousing ‘Lacassine
Special’, a showcase for some quicksilver steel guitar and hoarse vocals. This
is clearly aimed at the dancing contingent and is a foot-stomping way to round
off an energetic hour in the company of some of Cajun music’s finest.

Buy The Rough Guide to Cajun Dance.

Author: Paul Donnelly