One of the most eagerly awaited box sets of 2014 is JSP Records Louisiana Swamp Blues. It’s a four disc that features 102 slices of swamp blues and zydeco. Compiled by Neil Slaven, Louisiana Swamp Blues features contributions from the great and good of Louisiana blues and zydeco. 

Across Louisiana Swamp Blues’ four discs, there’s contributions from Leroy Washington, Jimmy Dotson, Lonesome Sundown, Big Chenier, Charles Sheffield, Tal Miller, Silas Hogan and Boozoo Chavis. There’s also contributions from groups like Cookie and The Cupcakes, Boogie Ramblers and Jay Nelson and The Jumpers. These tracks were released between 1954 and 1963. During this nine year period, Louisiana was a musical hotbed.

Between 1954 and 1963, low down, dirty, greasy blues R&B and zydeco provided the soundtrack to nights out in Louisiana. Providing the backdrop were many of the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues. That’s how they started off. Soon, they were spotted by some of the producers that put Louisiana on the musical map.

This included J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler, Sam Montel, Floyd Soileau and Carl Graffagnino. They were some of the most successful producers in Louisiana. They went in search of up-and-coming musical talent. This meant heading juke joints, night clubs, dive bars and wherever music was played. Sometimes, they struck musical gold. 

This includes many of the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues. Other times, the artists on Louisiana Swamp Blues were either discovered by talent spotters and A&R men. They introduced the artists to some of Louisiana’s top producers. Once the introductions were made, the artist was taken into the basic recording studios. Accompanied by a studio band, they cut the low down, dirty, greasy blues R&B and zydeco that features on Louisiana Swamp Blues, which I’ll tell you about.

Disc A 1954-1960.

The first of the four discs in the Louisiana Swamp Blues covers the period between 1954 and 1960. It features twenty-five tracks. Mostly, it’s blues all the way. However, there’s some zydeco thrown in for good measure. That’s the case from the opening bars of Cookie and The Cupcakes’ Married Life. It opens disc A. 

Straight away, you’re transported back to another musical age. It’s 1958 and Shelton Dunaway and the rest of The Cupcakes are cooking up a storm. Shelton’s vocal and Marshall Ladee’s guitar go toe-to toe. They’re at the heart of this bluesy storm. This is a tantalising start to Louisiana Swamp Blues. You hungrily await the remainder of disc A.

Soon you’re revelling in the bluesy delights of Leroy Washington’s My True Life, Blue Charlie’s Don’t Bring No Friend, Shelton Dunaway’s I Had The Blues, Mr. Calhoun’s They Call Me Mr Calhoun, Juke Boy Bonner’s Can’t Hardly Keep From Cryin’ and Lonesome Sundown’s I Stood By. These tracks are just the tip of a musical iceberg. There’s more to Louisiana Swamp Blues than blues. There’s zydeco and R&B.

The zydeco comes from the legendary Boozoo Chavis. He contributes two tracks on disc A. They’re Paper In My Shoe and Gonna Boogie. The latter is a delicious fusion, where zydeco and blues collide head on. Apart from zydeco and blues, there’s some R&B to enjoy on disc A.

This includes the heartfelt R&B of Clarence Garlow’s Train Came Down The Track. Then there’s King Charles’ Bop Cat Stomp and Joe Hudson’s Hoo-wee Pretty Baby. They’re just a tantalising taste of the music that helped put Louisiana on the musical map.

Disc B-1954-1962/63.

Having enjoyed the twenty-five tracks on disc A, there’s twenty-seven more to discover on disc B. It too, is a mixture of blues, R&B and zydeco. The music was released between 1954 and 1963. Some of the artists on disc B featured on disc A. This includes Lonesome Sundown, Leroy Washington, Cookie and The Cupcakes, Mr. Calhoun, Charles Sheffield and Boozoo Chavis. That’s no surprise. These artists played a huge part in the rise and of Louisiana music.

Compiler Neil Slaven realises the importance of picking the right track to open disc B. His decision to choose Lonesome Sundown’s Gonna Stick To You Baby is a masterstroke. It’s a blistering, slice of blues music. This whets your appetite for the blues of Silas Hogan’s You’re Too Late Baby, Clarence Garlow’s Sound The Bell, Boogie Jake’s I Don’t Know Why and Big Walter Price’s  Oh Ramona. These tracks are just a  few of the bluesy delights on disc B. What about zydeco though?

There couldn’t be a compilation of the music of Louisiana without The King of Zydeco Big Chenier. He contribues Let Me Hold Your Hand, where blues and zydeco melt into one. Later, another member of zydeco royalty showcases their considerable skilss. That’s none other than Boozoo Chavis. Bye Bye Catin and Calcasieu Zydeco Blues demonstrate what this legendary musician is capable of. Having told you about the blues and zydeco, what about the R&B on disc B.

Mr Calhoun makes a very welcome return on disc B. He contributes  I’m Ragged And Dirty. It’s one of the highlights of disc B. Cookie & The Cupcakes also make a return. They combine R&B with doo woo vocals on Close Up The Back Door. This shows another side to their music. They’re just one of several returnees on disc B. However, we’ve not heard the last of these artists.

Disc C-1954-1961.

Just like the two previous discs of Louisiana Swamp Blues, disc C features many of the same artists. This isn’t a criticism. No. It’s merely an observation. It makes sense not to change a winning formula? After all, the first two discs, ooze quality. So why change? The other benefit of sticking to the same artists, is you get to hear more of artists you may not have heard before. 

For, newcomers to the music of Louisiana, then Louisiana Swamp Blues is the perfect companion to Ace Records critically acclaimed “By The Bayou” compilation series. They feature many of the same artists.

Just like the two previous discs, disc C explodes into life. There’s no better way to start than with the blues of Left Hand Charlie’s Whole Lotta Drinkin’ On The Block. It reminds me of A Whole  Lot Of Shaking Going On. Musically, they’re related. After that, the tempo drops and the heartbreak begins. 

This begins with Big Chenier’s Please Try To Realise. Big Chenier delivers vocal full of hurt and despair. That’s also the case with Shelton Dunaway on Keep Livin.’ They’ve got the blues. So has Tal Miller on Mean Old Kokamoo. He delivers a despairing vocal, as he waves goodbye to “the mean old city.” That’s not the end of the blues.

There’s much more. This includes Lonesome Sundown’s Learn To Treat Me Better, Leroy Washington’s Wild Cherry, the Boogie Ramblers’ I’m Goin,’ King Charles’ But You Thrill Me and Charles Sheffield’s Nights Of Misery. It’s a case of the quality keeps on coming. Choosing the highlights isn’t easy. 

Jimmy Dotson’s Oh Baby features a needy, hopeful vocal. It’s the perfect introduction to a blues great. This is the case with Ivory Lee Jackson’s Got The News This Morning. A hidden gem, it’s an irresistible blues, that a glorious reminder of another age.

Away from the blues, there zydeco courtesy of Boozoo Chavis’ Boozoo Stomp and Forty One Days. It’s fitting Boozoo features twice. He’s zydeco royalty. So is Big Chenier. He’s known as the Kink of zydeco. His contribution is Please Try To Realise. It epitomises everything that’s good about zydeco. That however, is not the end of the story of disc C.

Many tracks on Louisiana Swamp Blues grab your attention. There’s too many to mention. One that can’t pass unmentioned is King Karl with Guitar Gable’s This Should Go On Forever. It’s a soulful hidden gem that’s a very welcome inclusion on disc C. Compiler Neil Slaven deserves credit for including it on Louisiana Swamp Blues. However, there may still be some more hidden gems to discover, as there’s one more disc to go on Louisiana Swamp Blues.

Disc D-1954-1962.

For the final disc on Louisiana Swamp Blues compiler Neil Slaven sticks with his tried and tested formula. What follows is in a similar vain to the three previous discs. This means blues, zydeco and even a hint of R&B. It’s a delicious musical stew. Especially when it starts with the jaunty, irresistible Guitar Rhumbo. It comes courtesy of Guitar Gable. Although very different to what’s gone before, it whets your appetite for the rest of disc D.

This starts with the moody, bluesy sound of Lonesome Sundown’s Lost Without Love. This is the first of two tracks he contributes. The other is No Use To Worry. Both tracks ooze quality. That’s the case with Hop Wilson’s Be Careful With The Blues and Silas Hogan’s Trouble At Home Blues. Other tracks see the tempo drop and a late-night sound unfold.

This is the case on Jimmy Dotson’s My Poor Heart In Pain. It’s easily one of the highlights of disc C. Jimmy delivers a heartbroken, soul-baring vocal. He sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics.  Blue Charlie’s Miss My Lagnion has a similar late-night sound. An instrumental with braying saxophone and pounding piano, it’s akin to an outpouring of hurt and emotion. Tal Miller continues the late night sound. Straight away, he dawns the role of blues philosopher on Life’s Journey. Melancholy and hurt are omnipresent as he shares his heartbreak and despair. That’s not the end of the heartbreak.

Hop Wilson’s vocal on Always Be In Love With You is a mixture of hurt, heartbreak and hope. He hopes that one day, his partner will want him back on this uptempo track. Another uptempo blues is Charles Sheffield’s I Would Be A Sinner. It features a grizzled horn that’s at the heart of the track’s success. Leroy Washington is responsible for a driving blues on My Chinatown Gal. His soulful vocal and an arrangement that’s a marriage of blues and R&B proves a potent partnership. There’s more to disc D than blues though.

This includes two slice of zydeco from Boozoo Chavis. His two contributions are Long Black Curly Hair and Oh! Babe. They’re a reminder of one of zydeco’s greats at the top of his game. Apart from blues and zydeco, there some R&B to enjoy on disc D.

Cookie & The Cupcakes return with their unique and joyous brand of R&B on I’m Twisted. Guitar Gable with King Karl also makes a return with Walking In The Park (With Sally). The only way to describe this track is hook laden and irresistible. Just as irresistible is the track that closes Louisiana Swamp Blues.

The perfect way to close disc D of Louisiana Swamp Blues is Jay Nelson and The Jumpers’ Don’t You Want A Man Like Me. It bursts into life and is two minutes of musical magic. Bristling with electricity, you’re spellbound as Jay Nelson and The Jumpers’ work their musical magic.

For too long, Louisiana has been overlooked when people discuss America’s musical capitals. That’s no longer the case. Records labels are exploring Louisiana’s musical past. This includes Ace Records and now JSP Records.

Ace Records “By The Bayou” series was one of the first to showcase Louisiana’s musical heritage. The series features blues, zydeco and R&B. So does JSP Records’ Louisiana Swamp Blues. For anyone looking to discover the delights of Louisiana’s musical past, then the perfect introduction are the “By The Bayou” series and JSP Records’ Louisiana Swamp Blues.

Featuring four discs crammed full of quality music, Louisiana Swamp Blues is the perfect introduction to the music of Louisiana during the late-fifties and early sixties. They conjur up images of Louisiana, during another musical era. This means music that’s emotive, evocative and atmospheric. Sometimes, it’s joyous, hook-laden and irresistible. Always, the music paints pictures of what life was like in Louisiana, between 1954 and 1963. Back then, Louisiana was one of America’s musical capitals. That’s apparent on Louisiana Swamp Blues.

Throughout the four discs that comprise Louisiana Swamp Blues oozes quality. Whether it’s blues, R&B or zydeco, the music is of the highest quality. That’s no surprise. Louisiana Swamp Blues features the great and good of Louisiana music. They’re joined by some lesser known names. Together, they’re responsible for Louisiana Swamp Blues. It’s a combination of blues, zydeco and R&B. Classics, old favourites and hidden gems from Louisiana’s musical past sit side-by-side on Louisiana Swamp Blues, which is without the best box set JSP Records have released during 2014.



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