The Bayou has fired the imagination of many a songwriter, with one of the greatest bayou songs coming from a guy who hadn’t yet been there. In honor of Bayou Boogaloo, we go deep into the country for this month’s playlist:
Hank Williams, “Jambalaya”
The granddaddy of bayou songs, and the one the most liberties have been taken with. I’m partial to Dash Rip Rock’s hardcore version, and the live Radiators one that substitutes the lyrics “Son of a bitch, we’re gonna pull the switch, down on the bayou.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Born on the Bayou”
John Fogerty once said he was able to write such an authentic swamp song, without ever seeing the place, because he lived in a damp basement apartment. We tried that once and it didn’t work.
Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, “Bayou Ruler”
Natural segue into one of the best Creedence homages we’ve heard, the title track of the Playboys’ only real rock ’n’ roll album
Jerry Reed, “Amos Moses”
Amazing that this bit of insanity made the national charts in 1970. I knew plenty of kids who never heard of Thibodeaux and though it was “Tippy-Toe, Louisiana.”
Sonny Landreth, “Back to Bayou Teche”
One of the guitar master’s trademark songs, a rocker whose catchy chorus doesn’t obscure its theme of homesickness.
Roy Orbison, “Blue Bayou”
Speaking of homesickness, bayou songs don’t get more haunting than this early Orbison gem. Linda Ronstadt’s hit cover was equally emotive, if a bit less spooky.
The Meters, “Fire On the Bayou”
No surprise that this became one of the band’s anthems, since the kind of party it describes—mostly centered around smoke and wine—could be taken anywhere. And of course, there’s that killer guitar lick.
Tina Turner, “Bayou Song”
Who knew that Tina Turner ever did swamp rock? This comes from a country album (Tina Turns the Country On) that she made in 1984, and It could be mistaken for an especially gritty Bonnie Raitt track from that era—at least until she gets into the gospel-infused Tina-isms in the chorus.
Ricky Nelson, “Down Along the Bayou Country”
Even though the lyric jumbles Cajun country with New Orleans, this track from 1970 (when future Eagle Bernie Leadon was in his band) is a nifty country-rocker with a lively plotline. Not everyone could pull off a song about armed robbery just a few years after child stardom.
Tab Benoit, “One Foot in the Bayou”
Gritty blues-rocker about a gal who’s torn between her home and New York City, and it’s easy to guess which side wins: “Taxicabs and traffic jams, sure do miss those candied yams.”