Louisiana is known for great music and great food. In Louisiana you can be sitting at a table on Bourbon Street's Preservation Hall listening to some of the best Dixieland Jazz. Or you could be quaffing a few beers with some crawfish etouffee and listening to the best Cajun music at the Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette. Then you could head back to New Orleans for some dirty rice and the best Zydeco bands at Tipitina's.
Yep, Louisiana has a lot to offer in the way of entertainment, but the bayous are one of the last places you'd expect to find great bluegrass. That is, if you are not familiar with Jim Smoak.
Jim Smoak is a helluva banjo player from Louisiana. He must have had a hard time finding a bluegrass audience in the bayous and moved north to Indiana to play banjo with Bill Monroe & his Bluegrass Boys around 1952. In the late '50s, he left Monroe to join up with Hylo Brown & the Timberliners (with Tater Tate on fiddle). Missing the bayous, he moved back to Louisiana in 1960 and formed the Louisiana Honeydrippers.
The time he had spent with classic masters Bill Monroe and Hylo Brown is evident in the accompaniment on these recordings. To my ears this sounds more like the early days of bluegrass, say the late 40s or early 50s, than the more polished sounds of the 1960s. Then there is the cajun influence. Listen to the fiddle of Dewey Edwards on "The Lakes of Ponchartrain".
Great bluegrass with a touch of the bayou.
A special thanks to Walt for sharing his musical treasures.