Enthusiasms No 19
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...
So, here are some quickies:
Donald Thibodeaux & Cajun Fever - Fred's Hot Step (Arhoolie CD 9006)
Cajun Fever! Any band taking on this name are either young and going for the tourist/yuppie audience or a rather naive traditional band looking at promoting their music beyond or to the confines of rough sweaty clubland of heartland Cajun country. Mercifully for us this is the latter for here is the band who have played the legendary live Saturday morning radio slot 'Mamou Cajun Hour' at that town's Fred's Lounge for the last ten or so years.
As I say, this is not your average squeaky clean, festival band but one that boasts a fair pedigree. Don's father Glady was the first Cajun to play the Smithsonian (in 1964), guitarist Ernest lead a stringband in the Forties that included Nathan Abshire, fiddler Allen Ardoin has played and recorded with J B Fusilier, Belton Richard and Austin Pitre, while steel guitarist Phillipe Alleman played at the infamous Papa George's Lounge in Rayne for $2.50 a night at the age of ten before joining Aldus Rogers' Band.
Their background shows and this is all good solid stuff; nothing you won't have heard before but equally nothing you wont mind hearing again.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford - Ballads, Banjo Tunes and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina (Smithsonian Folkways 40082)
Too often ignored and occasionally relegated to the category of collector/academic/performer, Lunsford is one of the great treasures of American Folksong. A lawyer-cum-would-be politician, he is probably best known for his composition Old Mountain Dew and his contribution to the Harry Smith Collection Wish I was a Mole in the Ground - but he is so much more. Arguably the greatest repository of American Song (he recorded over 350 pieces for the Library of Congress) he first recorded in 1922 on cylinder for folklorist Frank C Brown and commercially in 1924. In 1928 at the request of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce he extended the local Rhododendron Festival to incorporate regional music and thereby founded America's first genuine Folk Music Festival (and still going strong 27 years after his death).
This collection is a mix of his classic 1928 Brunswick recordings and his 1949 Archive of American Folksong contributions mentioned above. British and American balladry, dance tunes and hymns make up the collection which includes one moment of heartstopping beauty - Little Turtle Dove. Hugely recommended.
Ifi Palasa - Tongan Brass (Pan Records 2044)
Part of the superb 'Frozen Brass' series I raved about in MT 12, this collection recorded by Ad and Lucia Linkels between 1982 and 1990 is one of those gems I just keep coming back to. I admit to being a sucker for brass bands and here you have the entire range. From the almost obligatory conch shell virtuosi through Methodist Hymns (one of which - Sovereignty - is still sung to by carol singers at Oughtibridge!), dance tunes that resemble quadrilles and polkas, to touristy disco tunes, marches and concert pieces (Royal Standard / Ida and Dot). There's also a tune based upon a song written by the late Queen Salote Tupou III, but to me it sounds for all the world like the Grimethorpe Colliery Band parading through Saddleworth on Whit Friday. These are all amateur, local bands and their joy in playing (and really well too) is evident - but nowhere more than on the Taufa'ahau College Band's exceptional reading of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture ... a true experience! I got it through Harmonia Mundi a few years back - worth the hunt - and can the Linkels please get in touch and write an article for MT?
Mr Peters and his Boom & Chime - Weh Mi Lova Deh (Stonetree STR12)
More great music from MT's favorite Belizean band - raspy vocals, jaunty accordeon and the full panoply of Africa meets the Caribbean in South America. Maybe not as wonderfully 'cheesy' as his Fire Ant cassette that turned me on to his music (see MT 11) but worth hearing nonetheless. No idea where you'd get it from as the sleeve design, although adventurous, is almost entirely unreadable. Good CD though.
The Legendary DeFord Bailey - Country Music's First Black Star (Tenn Folklore Society TFS 122)
Legendary indeed - for this is the man who is best known as being the first - and for several decades the only - Black artist to appear on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Stricken with polio as a child he drew upon his family and his local music (his grandfather was a champion fiddler, his uncle a famed harmonica player) to make the best he could. That best was pretty good, for between 1925 and 1941 he was, alongside Uncle Dave Macon, the show's most popular performer.
He was a man with his own views also. He shunned any attempt to appear 'hick' on the show, always dressing smartly - whilst his white friends (including Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff, who minded and supported him on what must have been some pretty dangerous tours in the South) often had to demean themselves in overalls, straw hats and hobnails.
Bitter about being dropped by the Opry in 1941 (apparently more to do with publishing rights than racism) he steadfastly refused to record or enter into the Folk Revival of the Sixties (in which he would have surely been an unforgettable participant), but did allow a young local friend David Morton to tape his music on several visits between 1974 and 1976. And here 25 years later we can hear the man's music in toto. Lots of great harp playing and talking about his past - but more yet. Fine country blues with guitar and some of the best black banjo playing you'll ever hear. Bill Monroe played at his funeral in 1982 - I guess that is a good enough epitaph for most, but this CD is on a par.
The record has subsequently been reissued on Revenant 208 and was in the last Red Lick catalogue, so should be easy to get.
Tommy McClennan - The Bluebird Recordings (RCA 07863 67430 2)
At the ridiculous price of £9.25 (Red Lick) two CDs containing the entire works, in immaculate sound, of one of the few country bluesmen to record substantially (and one of the even fewer to achieve any commercial success) in the Forties. And what an unlikely star! With a declamatory post-Patton vocal style full of ad-libs, jokes and scat improvisation and a rudimentary guitar technique, McClennan is deep country - and yet these 1939-42 recordings in Chicago were to not only sell well to an audience more used to the urbane sounds of Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red, but were to influence and maybe even encourage the next wave of that city's bluesmen. Songs like Bottle Up and Go, Catfish Blues, Baby Don't You Want to Go and Cross Cut Saw are only the best known and most enduring amongst this outstandingly enjoyable (and cruelly underestimated) man's legacy.
Keith Summers - 30.3.00
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