Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I love a squeezebox, me, and have for as long as I recall, and certainly as long as I have been addicted to music. I don't care whether a concertina, a melodeon, an accordion, piano- or otherwise, a bandoneon or whatever, and it can be from within folk, tex-mex/conjunto, zydeco/cajun, country or even just slipped into good old rock and roll. But I fear I may be an odd boy in this perversion, the majority of my chums placing these pre-cursors to the synthesiser* low in their pecking orders, arguably down near the bagpipe and the banjo, both of which I also adore. So where do I begin?

Lets's set the scene: I think my favourite ever use of these delightful instruments is within this stonking cajun version of Chuck Berry's 'Promised Land':

This belter of a song rattles along quite tidily under its conventional rockabilly steam until lifted twice, a middle eight and at the end, by the glorious surge of louisiana provided by Belton Richard, a lesser known name than that of Johnny Allan, the singer, but a man who has put out a fair bit of swamp-pop in his own name, before and subsequently.(In fact, so good a solo is it that it reappears, note for note, in this, by Los Lobos, their David Hidalgo being no slouch on the instrument either.)

But what was that I said about *pre-cursors to the synthesiser? What tosh, you say, how can you compare primitive bellows with the majesty of, um, say, Gary Numan's chosen? Let me explain, with reference to economies of scale and a journey into the mysteries of the Morris dance. These folk dances of old england were traditionally led by pipe and tabor, the simultaneous one hand on a whistle, another on a drum, with fiddle later being employed as well or instead. The melodeon, a button accordion, could provide a much greater swell of noise and range, thus being able to replace a larger team of musicians on lesser instrumentation. Maybe mellotron is a better example than synth, but it's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

I could and I won't pontificate for hours as to the joy of squeeze, but that may not bring any converts, so how about a few more practitioners of merit wider than their genre might suggest.

Gotan Project are a Paris based collective of French and South American musicians dedicated to, largely, the tango. By imaginative use of electronic breaks and beats they endeavour to bring this dance and it's attendant culture into a 21st century setting. I think it works.

Still in France, there is of course a longstanding Parisian cafe culture built around cheesy chansons. This guy, Yann Tiersen, somehow explodes that. Oft dismissed as a mere soundtrack auteur, his repertoire is much wider. Accomplished on many instruments, I hope you will agree he gives the bellows a hell of a kicking in this burst above.

If they are still going, the Felice Brothers offer a delightfully ragged take on a ramshackle Americana that smacks of the subway busking sessions they began by playing. Based originally around the 3 Felices, now but 2 are still playing together, including James, who plays the accordion on this track, to brother Ian's singing.

As a final thought, I scribble recreationally on message board, the Afterword, a lifeboat for the aficionados of late lost music mag, (the) 'Word', and I am pleased there are other odd boys there; even the occasional odd woman. Here was a string about accordions you may enjoy.

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