Originally released on LP by Lake Charles’ Goldband Records in 1979 and reissued on CD in ’91, the third incarnation of Swampland Jewels, now on Yep Roc, is a significant departure from its predecessors. Produced by curator Steven Weiss, for the University of North Carolina Library’s Southern Folklife Collection, this remastered compilation is sonically crisper than its predecessors but without sacrificing any of its gritty rawness. Rather than relying on the album masters, Weiss rebuilt this eclectic collection using the un-dubbed original session masters and replaced deteriorating tracks with seven previously unreleased tunes.
The centerpiece songs remain the same: Boozoo Chavis’ “Paper in My Shoe” and Cleveland Crochet and Jay Stutes’ “Sugar Bee,” which exudes unbridled bluesy passion.
But what becomes salient is how innovative Goldband honcho Eddie Shuler was in trying new things. Shorty LeBlanc’s “Boss Cajun” is built on a mambo foundation. Joe Bonsall’s “La Cuca Rochman” is essentially a Cajun adaptation of “La Cucharacha” while Jo-El Sonnier and Robert Bertran’s “Mois Cinquantas Sous” feels more like a Norteño ballad than anything rooted in traditional Cajun music. Sonnier and Louisiana’s first accordion maker Sidney Brown play twin squeezeboxes on “Fee Fee Poncho.”
“My Little Cabbage,” also by LeBlanc, brims with ingenuity. The accordion starts with a cha-cha rhythm, shifts into a tempo-changing swing section, switches back to the cha-cha and repeats the exhilarating pattern a few more times. Weiss’ expanded liner notes give you a greater appreciation of Goldband’s artists but could have benefitted from including the year of the recording. Still, without Weiss’ herculean efforts, Goldband’s contributions to the annals of South Louisiana music could have drifted into obscurity. With this in hand, it returns to the forefront.