Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL is May 16-18, 2014 - www.hangoutmusicfest.com

Vin Bruce

Dans La Louisianne

(Bear Family)

Vin Bruce, Dans La Louisianne (Bear Family Records)

Columbia Records signed Vin Bruce in 1952, making the 19-year-old the first Cajun to ever sign a contract with a major label. It was his beautiful French originals that attracted the record company, who recognized the potential of a Cajun country artist after Harry Choates garnered national acclaim with “Jole Blon” in 1946. Between 1952 and 1954, Bruce recorded 20 sides, 18 of which were released, performed on the Grand Ole Opry and even sang at Hank Williams’ second wedding in New Orleans. Two years later, the onslaught of rock ‘n’ roll resulted in Bruce’s contract being terminated, thus beginning an era where he would eventually record for various Louisiana labels. Still, it’s always been baffling why Bruce’s early recordings were never re-released, but credit Gulf Coast music historians Andrew Brown and former OffBeat contributor Michael Hurtt for making this happen.

Backed by a stellar Nashville band featuring multi-instrumentalist Grady Martin, guitarist Chet Atkins and pianist Owen Bradley, Bruce’s Columbia catalogue is presented in its entirety, including such signature songs as “Dans La Louisianne” and the tuneful “Claire de la Lune.” Although most of the arrangements are relaxed and carefree, “I Tried” swings with killer solos by Atkins and Williams’ steel ace Don Helms. As a songwriter, Bruce was more prolific in French than in English with four French and two English tunes. Four more French originals were inexplicably never credited to Bruce.

Compared to his later years, when his voice deepened and became smoother, in the early 50s, Bruce crooned in a higher, supple voice with a gentle delivery. It’s still a beautiful thing to behold and deservedly places him in a league of country music’s elite, even if it was only for a brief two years.

Buy Vin Bruce’s Dans La Louisianne on Amazon