Saturday, October 01, 2005

Silent Stereo Reviews

A new monthly feature that looks at some artists and albums you may have missed.

The Early Jin Singles "Southland Rock 'n' Roll"
Ace Records

(out of five)

Maybe all the Hurricane Katrina coverage influenced me. Or perhaps it was the cover photo of some fresh-faced youths posing with drums, guitars, and horns. Most likely it was the teaser on the back of the disc, which trumpeted the music therein as "swamp pop." Either way, when I came across this disc in a used record store on Bleecker Street, I was immediately intrigued. Swamp pop, as it turns out, was a nascent breed of rock music developed in New Orleans and popular throughout Southern Louisiana and East Texas. And the number one purveyor of the swamp pop sound was Floyd Soileau's Jin Record label (named after his wife, Jinver). Soileau was the Cajun incarnation of Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, the founders of Stax records, and like them, ran a recording studio out of his record shop. And more important, like his brethern up in Memphis, Soileau was committed to capturing the musical stylings of his locality, working to promote and preserve Cajun music. Floyd shrewdly noted that the local youths were trading in their steel guitars and fiddles for saxes and electric guitars as rock music began to take hold, and correctly guessed that there would be a burgeoning market for this new Cajun/Creole rock sound. And his Jin Record Label would be more than happy to meet that demand.
Once Soileau set up shop, artists and producers descended upon his Ville Platte record business to make a record with "Mr. Floyd." These young artists were influenced primarily by local legend Fats Domino, and in their attempts to emulate their idol, they created a unique--and quite commerical--sound. The disc contains tracks by such artists as Phil Bo, Rockin' Sidney, The Del-Chords, Rockin' Dave Allen, and Red Smiley and the Vel-Tones; certainly not a household name among them. And yet many of the tracks are surprisingly strong--high energy rockers with passionate vocals, blaring horn sections, and some nice boogie piano playing.
The compilation features thirty tracks, and while there are some weak numbers, the majority of the disc is worth a listen or two. The Jin sound in many cases is characterized by a very hot vocal track and on some numbers you can just see the needles pushing the red on the mixing board. My personal favorite vocal is Steve Rollins work on "Crying Over You"--he's giving it his all and his voice seems close to the breaking point. Other standouts are Rockin' Dave Allen's "Can't Stand to See You Go" and "She Wears My Ring" by Phil Bo.
When the British invasion struck, swamp pop music was an early casualty. Many of the top artists disbanded or moved to Nashvilled to try their hand at country. In a few short years, the swamp pop scene was no more. This disc offers a fascinating and satisfying glimpse into one of the many early regional rock and roll movements in America.


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