Beyond its south Louisiana birthplace, swamp pop is less known than the region’s internationally branded Cajun and zydeco music. A hybrid of Cajun-French music and classic rhythm and blues from New Orleans, swamp pop is most of all music made for a dancehall on a Saturday night. Singer-songwriter Yvette Landry grew up in a swamp pop–loving family in Breaux Bridge. She heard Cajun music on the radio, but swamp pop, not waltzes and two-steps, was the music she loved most. That’s what Landry and her parents danced to in Acadiana dancehalls. At home, they played swamp pop records by local favorites Cookie and the Cupcakes, Warren Storm, and T.K. Hulin.
In July, Landry, a performer of swamp pop, Cajun and country music, released her swamp pop–dominated Louisiana Lovin’. The track list includes songs written and/or performed by Bobby Charles (composer of “Walking to New Orleans” and “See You Later, Alligator”), David Egan, Warren Storm, G.G. Shinn and Cookie and the Cupcakes. Landry also interprets Skeeter Davis’ vocal rendition of Floyd Cramer’s country instrumental, “Last Date,” and rhythm and blues star Ruth Brown’s “Daddy Daddy.” The Louisiana Lovin’ album release show is August 18 at the Whirlybird in St. Landry Parish.
Musically, Landry and her Louisiana Lovin’ co-star, Roddie Romero, wanted to take listeners to a 1950s or ’60s dancehall. Sonically, the album, which they recorded at Dockside Studio near Lafayette, recalls the 50- to 60-year-old recordings made at J.D. Miller’s studio in Crowley, Louisiana, a bastion of swamp blues.
Landry’s and Romero’s 2014 remake of “I’m Leaving It Up to You,” the Dale and Grace duet that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, inspired Louisiana Lovin’. Like Dale Houston and Grace Broussard before them, Landry and Romero cut their version of “I’m Leaving It Up to You” at La Louisianne Recording Studios in Lafayette.
“Roddie and I had performed ‘I’m Leaving It Up to You’ before, at a gig he did with me,” Landry said. “It was awesome. And we both said, ‘We gotta record this thing.’”
“I’d heard that song all of my life,” Romero said. “It’s always played on the radio here in Acadiana. Then I heard Jimmie Vaughan’s recording of it with Lou Ann Barton. It just made sense doing a swamp pop version of it. And it just made sense to record it at La Louisianne Studio.”
During the “I’m Leaving It Up to You” session, Romero said, “sparks flew when Yvette and I started singing together. It was magical. It was natural. No overdubs.”
Because Landry didn’t quite know where to place “I’m Leaving It Up to You,” she made it a bonus track on her 2014 duo album with pedal steel guitarist Richard Comeaux, Me & T-Coe’s Country. Despite that obscure placement, the recording caught on. KRVS-FM in Lafayette and KBON-FM in Eunice played it. So did radio stations in Texas, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Turkey. “Radio loved it,” Romero said. “It took a life of its own.”
The straightforward, black-and-white video of the duo’s “I’m Leaving It Up to You” session has been viewed 68,000 views on YouTube. Three of Landry’s high school students shot and edited the clip free of charge. “I don’t think I could have paid anybody to do a better a job on the video,” Landry said. “It’s exactly what the song needed. Sometimes everything comes together in the universe.”
Realizing how special and knowing how popular “I’m Leaving It Up to You” was, Landry and Romero wanted to do more studio work together. But their schedules conspired to keep the reunion more wish than reality. In 2017, their tours of Canada and Europe together reignited their studio ambitions.
From a van in Germany, Landry booked Dockside Studio and the musicians she wanted for the January 2018 session in Acadiana. “We went in there unrehearsed and played this music raw,” she said. “It was a just a bunch of friends getting together and playing music—and it was magical.”
“Yvette is such a strong leader,” Romero said. “It’s easy to ride the wave and not think about those other things that are necessary but can maybe cloud the creativity. I could talk for five hours about the brilliant little things that happened in the studio. And I’d love to do another album. Jokingly, we’ve said volume two needs to start soon. But I don’t think of it jokingly, because I’ll get a phone call from Yvette and, then, here we go again. I feel like it’s time for us to start creating some new music. If it sounds like swamp pop, then so be it.”
A teacher by profession, Landry didn’t learn to play an instrument until 2004. She’s since played bass with the Lafayette Rhythm Devils and the Grammy-nominated Bonsoir, Catin. Louisiana Lovin’ is her fifth solo album. She turned to music following her late father’s cancer diagnosis.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Landry said of her international music career. “I’m blessed. I’m happy. My original goal was to play with the Huval Family Band at Mulate’s Restaurant in Breaux Bridge. I managed to do that three years into it. I met my goal. Everything that happens from this point forward is a bonus.”