August 29, 2010 by gadaya
–Listen to “Home Sweet Home” by The Breaux Frères
Another great cajun musician from the old days, Amedée Breaux, along with his brothers Ophé, Cléopha (i really dig these cajun names…) and his sister Cléoma (which performed and married with Joe Falcon) were sons and daughter of a great acccordion player, August Breaux. August was never recorded but his sons made many sides under the name Breaux Frères from 1930 through 1951. The Breaux were one of those big Lousiana family where cajun music was passed down from father to son and all the children learned to play at a very young age. Amedée 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. In 1929, with Ophé on fiddle and Cleoma on guitar and vocal, the trio recorded “Ma blonde est partie”, the first version of a song which would became one of the most popular cajun number of all time, “Jolie Blond”. It is said that Cleoma wrote the song about one of Amedée’s former wives. It’s a beautiful bittersweet song in waltz time, and even if it sounds strange sung by a woman here, Cleoma’s vocals are so strong and powerful that it remains a great version of the “Cajun national anthem”.
–Listen to “Ma blonde est partie”
A few years after, Amedée would record it again with his brothers, this time under the title “Jolie Blonde” and would do the singing.
-Listen to “Jolie Blonde”
The repertoire of the Breaux brothers included the usual cajun dance numbers like Waltzes, One and two steps, mazurkas, etc… and some cajunized versions of Blues, Jazz and Popular music pieces.
-Listen to “Mazurka de la Louisiane”
-Listen to “Egan one-step” (Egan is the name of the Louisiana town where the Breaux farm was located)
-Listen to “Tiger Rag Blues”
-Listen to “La valse des pins”
One of my favorite track from the Breaux Brothers is this lively dance piece called “Fais Dodo nègre” which probably come from the black musicians repertoire of Lousiana, known as Zydeco and creole music.
Fais do-do is a name for a Cajun dance party, originating before World War II. According to Mark Humphrey the parties were named for “the gentle command (‘go to sleep’) young mothers offered bawling infants.” He quotes early Cajun musician Edwin Duhon of the Hackberry Ramblers, “She’d go to the cry room, give the baby a nipple and say, ‘Fais do-do.’ She’d want the baby to go to sleep fast, ’cause she’s worried about her husband dancing with somebody else out there.” Do-do’ itself is a shortening of the French verb dormir (to sleep), used primarily in speaking to small children. Comparable to the American English ‘”beddy-bye”, it is still commonly used by French-speaking people. (From Wikipedia)
-Listen to “Fais-dodo nègre”
In the 1960, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records recorded great older cajun musicians and among them the Breaux Brothers. It was issued on a record called “Cajun Fais-dodo”. Strachwitz and his Arhoolie label have greatly contribued to the knowledge and diffusion of Cajun music.
-Listen to “La branche de murier”
-Here’s a compilation of 20 Breaux Brothers recordings
Le Blues du Petit Chien
Vas y Carrement
Tiger Rag Blues
T’as Vole Mon Chapeau
Fais Do Do Negre
One Step A Marie
La Valse Du Vieux Temps
Le One Step A Martin
Le Valse D’Utah
Mazurka De La Louisiane
Les Tracas Du Hobo Blues
La Valse D’Auguste (August Waltz)
La Valse Des Pins (Pinewood Waltz)
Egan One Step
La Branche de Murier
The Home Sweet Home Variations
The “Home Sweet Home” played by the Breaux Brothers on the Anthology is a very “cajunized” 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.
Listen to Mathtew Sabatella & the rambling string band (from his cd “Songs in the life of Abraham Lincoln)
Cowboys and frontier people loved to sing the song too and even made their own versions.
-Listen to Harry Mc Clintock “Cowboy’s Home Sweet Home”
It was also a favorite among opera singers and many versions were put on records during the early years of the phonograph.
-Listen to australian soprano singer Nellie Melba, recorded in the 1920’s
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.
-Listen to Virginian Emory Fitzgerlad playing a knock-down banjo version (field recording from The Digital Linbrary of Appalachia)
Early String-bands like Frank Jenkins Pilot Mountaineers reworked the song in “A message from Home Sweet Home” and Jenkins recorded as well his solo banjo version, done in a pre-Scruggs three-finger style.
-Listen to “A message from Home Sweet Home”
-Listen to Frank Jenkins banjo solo version
The Breaux Frères were not the only cajun band to record “Home Sweet Home”. I found versions by Creole players like Alphonse “Bois sec” Ardoin and The Carrière Brothers.
-Listen to Alphonse “Bois sec ” Ardoin
Among my favorites, there’s a version sung by a school choir recorded by Alan Lomax in the Caribbean islands, a sweetly fingerpicked guitar version by Elizabeth Cotten and a mountain dulcimer (played in the old Galax style) and baritone ukulele duo by Bonnie Russell and her family.
-Listen to Alan lomax’s caribbean recording
-Listen to Bonnie Russell and her family
Let’s end with this jazzy version (New-Orleans style) by british cornet and trumpet player Ken Colyer
-Listen to Ken Colyer and his Jazzmen
You’ll find all this recordings and many others in my two-part compilation of 30 variations on “Home Sweet Home”. This is a perfect example of a song that cross many genres and styles, from popular to folk, from opera to cajun music, from bluegrass banjo to hawaiian guitar…Enjoy!
- Amedee Breaux Cajun Early Recordings
- Bonnie Russell and the Russell Family Mountain Dulcimer Galax Style
- E.C. Ball And Orna Through The Years 1937-1975
- Elizabeth Cotten, Volume 3: When I’m Gone
- Emory Lee Fitzgerald Digital Library of appalachia
- Frank Jenkins Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters & Frank Jenkins’ Pilot Mountaineers
- Harry McClintock When I Was A Cowboy, Vol. 2
- Ken Colyer Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen and Skiffle Group – 1956
- Mark Gardner with the Muleskinners Songs of the Santa Fe Trail and the Far West
- Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band Songs in the Life of Abraham Lincoln
- Nellie Melba Great Voices Of The 20th Century
- The New Lost City Ramblers The Harry Smith Connection: A Live Tribute to the Anthology
- Phil and Vivian Williams Dance Music of the Oregon Trail
- Steve Sparkman Harlan County Five-String
- Tony Rice The Bluegrass Guitar Collection
- Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin Musique Creole (with Canray Fontenot)
- Carriere Brothers Old Time Louisiana Creole Music
- Doc Watson and David Holt Legacy
- Don Reno, Red Smiley Bluegrass Big Three Vol. 3
- Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys Foggy Mountain Banjo
- Frank Jenkins’ Pilot Mountaineers Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters & Frank Jenkins’ Pilot Mountaineers
- Haywood Blevins Digital Library of appalachia
- Kilby Snow Masters of Old-Time Country Autoharp
- Maggie Rader Digital Library of appalachia
- Oren Jenkins American Banjo: Three-Finger and Scruggs Style
- Possum Ridge String Band On the Road Again
- Raymond Kane Hawaiian Sunset Music, Vol. 1
- Rosa Ponselle PONSELLE, Rosa: American Recordings, Vol. 2 (1923-1929)
- School Choir Caribbean Voyage: Dominica – Creole Crossroads
- W. Scott Boatwright Digital Library of appalachia