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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Cajun artists Kelli Jones and Joel Savoy revive a 1960s Petula Clark French single B-side

Kelli Jones and Joel Savoy sing Petula Clark's “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour”

Cajun music label Valcour Records president Joel Savoy has been playing on stage and on recordings with fellow fiddler/guitarist Kelli Jones for over 10 years but only now, with the release of “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour” (“I’m Looking at the World Through Tear Drops”), have they actually made their first duet record together.

Just out yesterday is a seven-inch opaque white vinyl 45 rpm single featuring “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour” as the A-side. The French song originally appeared as the B-side of Petula Clark’s 1964 French label single “Hello, Dolly!”—the Broadway show tune that Clark, who recorded in several languages besides English, also sang in French.

The Jones/Savoy vinyl single is backed with a set of contemporary Cajun fiddle tunes: “The Attakapas Trail,” by the late Cajun fiddler/composer Al Berard, and “Reel de Nez Picqués, by Cajun band BeauSoleil’s fiddler Michael Doucet.

Both B-side tunes, written by Savoy’s heroes and named after Native American tribes in Louisiana, are “wonderful examples of new Cajun fiddle tunes that are being written in Acadiana today,” says Savoy, referring to the French-speaking southwest region of the state.

Additionally, two other tracks were recorded by Savoy and Jones: “McGee Reels,” consisting of old fiddle breakdowns by legendary Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, and “Dedans la Louisiane,”a love song by the great Cajun songwriter Vin Bruce that Savoy has heard his parents, Cajun music luminaries Marc and Ann Savoy, sing as a duet since he was a baby.

The two bonus tracks are available as a download with purchases of the “Toi, Tu Joues à L’amour” single.

“You can only fit five minutes—or less—per side on a vinyl 45, so we could only include one other track on it besides the A-side,” explains Savoy. “So it seemed fitting for the B-side to pay homage to two contemporary Cajun fiddle heroes of mine, my ‘uncle’ Michael Doucet and my friend Al Berard.”

As for the Petula Clark A-side, Savoy and Jones fortuitously found a copy of her single in a trash pile while on a vacation trip exploration of a castle in Portugal. The single ended up on Savoy’s home jukebox in Eunice, La.—and getting heavy play.

“It kept coming on, and it got stuck in my head!” says Jones. “I’ve also always been a big fan of Petula’s voice and that whole ‘60s era of women singers and recording style in both English and French--singers like Skeeter Davis, Lesley Gore, Ronnie Spector, Françoise Hardy, France Gall, etc. Bringing this song to the table and attempting it as a slower twin fiddle piece was just an attempt at creatively melding these two musical worlds that I have a lot of love and respect for, and I think it came out delightfully haunting and playful at the same time. I’m just hoping everyone thinks the same!”

Savoy adds that the track was recorded face-to-face, a few feet apart, “live—the way I wish I could always record,” he says.

As for releasing a vinyl single, he says he wanted to put out “a special product that reflects the way we feel about the content.” Recognizing the small market in vinyl for French Cajun music, he has limited the one-time-only pressing to 300 copies—each with a download card for all four tracks—and is selling them on digital music outlets as well.

Savoy has also instituted a “multiple choice” pricing plan for vinyl buyers, who can pay “standard retail” of $12 (“where we essentially break even, since they cost us $10.28 each to make”), or up to $30 according to “whatever it’s worth to you!”

“We don’t want to charge people too much,” he adds, “and we have plenty of faith in our audience in compensating us as they see fit—and they’re definitely paying more.”

And Savoy notes that all four tracks available via download were cut live and kept that way.

“I loved the rough mixes so much we didn’t touch ‘em,” he says. “To me, there’s nothing like making mixes either during or right after the recording session--even if they’re not perfect they always seem more connected to the music and more emotional somehow. So this is us, the way we are: two best friends playing fiddles together in a gorgeous room with no reverb or nothing, and I everyone enjoys our effort to make quality, honest, real music.”

Petula Clark's French version of "Hello Dolly!"



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