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Blues, rock, country...and Randy Newman, too
M. Bromberg | Atlanta, GA United States | 05/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shame, shame on RCA for letting this go out of print. Sonnier has a terrific country voice, and his band sounds like they're having a hoot, but what really sets this album apart is the choice of material. Songs by Dave Alvin (of the Blasters), Troy Seals, Earl "Poole" Ball, blues legend Slim Harpo, and a gorgeous version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana, 1927" make this the most unusual country album of 1987 -- or any other year, come to think of it. And as if this party couldn't get any better, there's a version of "Tear-Stained Letter" that (almost) outshines Richard Thompson's own original. Maybe RCA didn't know what to do with this album in the days before alt-country radio -- how do you promote a one-shot "country" crossover album that breaks all of the rules? -- but it's time for a re-issue."
The Cajun Valentino
Music Critic | 03/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In terms of hit singles, Cajun songwriter/singer/accordianist Jo-el Sonnier (born Joel Sonnier in Rayne, Louisiana on October 2, 1946) has had a rather spotty career, registering just 10 on the Country charts over a 14-year period. But his albums are renowned among followers of Cajun music, including his first three released in the 1967-69 period by Goldband: Hurricane Audry (1967), The Scene Today In Cajun Music (1968), and The Cajun Valentino (1969), a nickname he went by in billings at the time.
In 1975 he landed a contract with Mercury Nashville, not particularly noted for knowing how to promote their Country artists, and it showed in the results of his single releases, none of which followed his Cajun roots. In late 1975, I've Been Around Enough To Know could only manage a # 78 b/w A Brighter Shade Of Blue, and the following spring his cover of the Lefty Frizzell 1951 hit, Always Late (With Your Kisses), struggled to # 99 b/w Knock, Knock, Knock. And when, in June of 1976, He's Still All Over You just made the Top 100 at # 100 b/w Am I Just Your Friend, that would be it for his Mercury career and a hit of any kind for 11 long years.
Instead, he again turned to recording purely Cajun music for Rounder Records and in 1980 had the LP "Cajun Life" released to, if not commercial success, certainly critical acclaim as it was nominated for a Grammy. He also spent some time touring as the opening act for Merle Haggard & The Strangers before receiving a new contract late in the 1980s from RCA Victor, who DID know how to promote their Country acts.
His first hit there was a modest one, although significantly better than anything he did at Mercury as the haunting and very Cajun-like Come On Joe made it to # 39 in December 1987 b/w Say You Love Me. You can almost feel the muggy, dark night as he sings "the light from my cigarette flickers in the dark ... the only way she knows I'm here ... then suddenly the sounds of the fiddles and accordions sweetly begin to play and I can almost hear her sweet voice sayin' .... come on Joe ...." It deserved better than a # 39.
But he fixed that with his next release early in 1988 when No More One More Time went all the way to # 7 b/w Louisiana 1927, and in July when Tear-Stained Letter topped out at # 9 b/w Say You Love Me (again). He then finsihed off 1988 with the # 35 cover of the 1961 Slim Harpo hit Rainin' In My Heart b/w Baby Hold On. In May 1989, (Blue, Blue, Blue) Blue Blue peaked at # 47 b/w I've Got Dreams To Remember, and in November that year If Your Heart Should Ever Roll This Way Again made it to # 24 b/w You Done Me Wrong. April 1990 then saw his last hit when The Scene Of The Crime finished at # 65 b/w Evangeline Special.
A stint at Capitol resulted in no further single hits, but he did go back to album work for Rounder and other labels, including one done live at the Canadian roots of the Cajuns (Acadian) in Atlantic Canada. Cajun Pride, done for Rounder in 1997 earned him a second Grammy nomination, and in 2001, Cajun Blood was nominated for for Best Traditional Folk Album. In 2008, Jo-el was inducted into the Cajun French Music Association Hall of Fame.
This brief volume from RCA/BMG (great sound quality - no background details) provides a decent sampling of his work, including four of his hits and two B-sides."