When reading of the Cajun/Swamp Pop musician Joe Barry, time and time again one comes across the word “legend”. He has indeed cut a wide swath, both musically and as a sort of Cajun Kali, a bayou-born god of destruction. Survivor of thousands of binges and a pioneer of the fine art of hotel room disassembly, it should not be forgotten that Barry was one of Acadiana’s most talented musicians to emerge in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Notes on the Recordings

The album’s five opening songs showcase Barry the master Swamp Popper. Elvis gets the Barry treatment on the kick-off “You Belong To My Heart”, once again demonstrating Barry’s uncanny knack for vocal mimicry (this song gets the treatment from Presley fan Jackie Wilson on his “By Special Request” album - ed.). Volume 2 of Edsel’s Joe Barry Collection finds Barry as deftly rendering the Fat Man’s vocals as he does here with the King’s. As an example, we include the “Heartbroken Love”, wherein Barry expounds on this Domino Theory. Another Presleyan piece, Gentleman Jim Reeves’ “Yonder Comes A Sucker”, contains a memorable line in which Barry’s Cajun lilt renders the words “She’s got lots more fellas” as simply “sh-galazmofellas”.

A sizzling set of blues and R&B commences with the James Brown-styled “Everything’s Alright”. “Fat’s in the Fire”, a smoulderingly menacing rocker, awaits discovery by Quentin Tarantino. A truly memorable piece, evocative of open-top cars with sharp fins and zoot-suited studs with steel blades, I consider this a lost classic of mid-60’s rock & roll. “Come On Home” takes on Houston’s classic Duke-Peacock big-band blues style with admirable aplomb. Few artists outside of Don Robey’s charmed circle ever captured so well the majesty of the blues. Not quite as suave as Bobby Bland, Barry’s blues sound cut from the more homespun cloth that adorned Junior Parker.

“The Rains Came” slows things way down. The song itself was written by Crazy Cajun labelmate James Young (Recording alias: Big Sambo), and was a favorite of label head Huey Meaux (particularly as he appears to have bought the song!). Virtually every act that passed through Meaux’s studio was encouraged to take a whack at this tearjerker.

Sop closes the rock & roll portion of the disc. The 1948 Eddy Arnold country classic “Bouquet of Roses” transports us to the honky-tonks on the outskirts of town. “Today I Started Loving You Again” and Delbert McClinton’s “If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go” post-date the other recordings by a decade or so, but are still George Jones Beaumont-style honky-tonk of the first order. On “Today”, Barry hearkens back to his roots and sings a verse in Cajun French. “Three’s A Crowd” is a loving tribute to the Texas Troubador, the late, great Ernest Tubb.

~John Nova Lomax, April 1999

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