Various ‘Swamp Pop – Sea of Love – The Ultimate Collection 1955-1962’ (Jasmine) 4/5

Back in the 1950s one of the most effective ways for record labels to promote their products in the United States was via the jukebox. It immediately brought new sounds into the inner cities and countryside bars alike, and this well researched compilation casts new light on a style of music that was popular in the southern states of Louisiana and Texas. It was music that cut across both the racial divide and musical boundaries, with R & B and country genres featured in equal measure. These include 45s from some of the premier labels such as Argo, Ace, Chess and Columbia. What is particularly interesting is how these seemingly disparate styles in practice merged and cross-fertilised. Thankfully, musicians never did respect artificially imposed divides by the rest of society.

The excellent liner notes allude to the historical legacy and importance of New Orleans in nurturing new talent and a common denominator here is the collective influence of Fats Domino upon the musicians and equally that of his producer, Dave Bartholomew. To a greater or lesser extent, all the music contained within pays homage to that particular sound. Highlights include the rock and roll influenced, ‘This should go on forever’ by Rod Bernard and, ‘Just a dream’, by Jimmy Clanton. Blues fans will feel at home with Earl King’s, ‘Those lonely, lonely nights’. Arguably the biggest swamp hit of all belonged to the evocatively named Cookie and his Cup Cakes with, ‘Mathilda has finally come back’.

While none of the singles made any impact in the UK, the title track of the compilation was covered by Marty Wilde and he enjoyed a sizeable hit, occupying the number three position in the UK charts. Ray Charles would effortlessly fuse R & B and country genres with his 1962 seminal album recording, ‘Modern sounds in country and western music’. A previous Jasmine 2 CD, ’50 classic sounds of Louisiana’, covers similar ground in even greater depth.

Tim Stenhouse