Regionality always throws up some interesting quirks, and it is no surprise that so many cities distinctively coloured the sounds of the music that emerged from them. New York threw up bebop’s sharp, hard improvisations; LA is renowned for the frenetic modernistic soul that fuelled so much of the early Northern Soul scene; Detroit captured the sound of its hot and heavy industrial production lines, not only with Motown and its myriad of imitators, but in its garage rock lineage that stretches on from Mitch Ryder, through the MC5 and Iggy on to the White Stripes. Louisiana as a musical centre is usually associated with New Orleans, but as with every part of the mainland United States, behind the headline story so much more went on. With its large black community and many independent record companies, collectors and DJs have been unearthing compelling funk and soul records over the last few years. With our unique connections in the region we have been able to round up some of the finest and rarest of these.
We have drafted in 21 ¬? slices of vinyl beauty from a host of labels from this multi-faceted state. From the northern end we have pulled out some fine examples of what was going on around Shreveport. From the multi-layered rhythms of African Music Machine, whose Black Water Gold is possibly the best known track on the album, through to the high quality groove of Eddie Giles’ whose Soul Feeling being the 1 ¬? record here. We open the compilation with Part One and then close proceedings with Part 2 and its awesome drum break.
Our rarest record on the compilation is from the State’s capitol Baton Rouge, home of the Louisiana blues legend Tabby Thomas. Thomas has released dozens of records over the years recorded for many labels, including several of his own. We have a great gritty R&B number called Soul Time which he released on his own Soul International label, and the follow-up is an uplifting, fast and furious funk number called One Day. This is super rare and the very few copies that do turn up attract the most serious of collectors.
Most of our records come from the Cajun lands in the south-west of the State. The population has its own unique culture, descended from the Acadians, French settlers forced out of Canada by the British in the 18th Century. The black and the white populations of the area have their own musics: creole, cajun and zydeco and their own record labels. These labels were invaluable for those in the area who wanted to record more mainstream music and much white pop (swamp pop) and R&B was recorded in the area. When funk came in some great records were made.
The greatest representation of releases on this compilation come from Eddie Shuler’s Goldband group of labels. He had R&B signed to his main label with artists that included Count Rockin’ Sidney and Katie Webster check her incredible Hell Or High Water but he also set up the ANLA label to specifically cover the James Brown / Otis Redding sound that was popular in the area in the late 60s. This great label aided by Shuler’s rough and ready recording style made some incredible records by the Dynamic Adam, the Soul Senders and Freddie Love; the latter two have both been sampled.
The other main cajun label was Swallow Records who scored many swamp pop hits and set up the Maison De Soul label to provide an outlet for black music in the early 70s. The earlier releases on the label provide us with two of the grittiest slices of funk ever seen on record. Donnie Jacobs’ Proud Man is a fast groove which explains what Donnie thinks is important about his pride, whilst local radio DJ JJ Caillier’s I Got A Groove really does do what it says on the tin.
The remaining tunes come from Jay Miller’s Crowley- (Louisiana, not Oxford) based Soul Unlimited label. Miller’s was the best studio in the south west of the State, and his records have a slightly slicker feel. But records such as Dennis Landry’s Miss Hard To Get and Concentration or Johnny Truitt’s amazingly soulful No Sad Times are essential slices of Louisiana music.
With the help of John Broven and his myriad contacts in the region, the booklet to this release is a wonder to behold, a treasure trove of pictures, label scans and even a super rare picture covers.
By Dean Rudland