Liner Note Author: Tony Rounce.
Photographer: Bob Dunham .
Ace's 2015 compilation kicks off with Clarence "Frogman" Henry's signature tune "Ain't Got No Home," but it's not the familiar hit version released on Chess' Argo imprint in 1956. It's a version Henry cut for Parrot Records eight years later, a subsidiary of London Records that is perhaps better understood in this context as an East Texas outpost of the Crescent City, a place where Henry could hunker down with Crazy Cajun record man Huey P. Meaux as they set about re-creating the feel of Clarence's Argo records. Some of these recordings have shown up on various recordings over the years but they've never been paired with the sides Henry made for the Nashville-based Dial in the late '60s, nor have they been released alongside early-'70s sessions Clarence cut for Meaux, who put these songs out on his short-lived American Pla-Boy label. It's a bit of a convoluted road for the easy-rolling Clarence "Frogman" Henry, complicated further by how some of these sides are unreleased, while others first showed up on the 1999 Edsel disc I Like That Alligator, Baby. Despite the messy discography-- through all the replications and cheerful attempts at riding the shifting fashions, whether he's doing a reggae version of "Sea Cruise" or ripping off the Sir Douglas Quintet's arrangement of "In the Jailhouse Now" with the tacit approval of Meaux -- Henry usually sounds just like his idol, Fats Domino, always warm and friendly, happily rolling along with the rhythms and making everything sound easy. Sometimes, the pleasure here is in hearing Henry lie back, to hear him luxuriate in the steady roll of the New Orleans rhythms, but he's so good at this that the departures that pop up toward the end of the collection - how "Hummin' a Heartache" itches to veer away from the Big Easy, the harder blues of "It Went to Your Head," the near straight-ahead country of "We'll Take Our Last Walk Tonight," the spaced-out rock-funk of "Rock Down in My Shoe," the proto-disco "Sock-A-Dilly Alabam" -- wind up making a stronger impression, even when there's no doubt that Clarence "Frogman" Henry was at his best when he stuck to New Orleans...even when he was recording that R&B in Texas and Tennessee. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine