Various artists

It’s hard to think of a genre more upbeat than the great cultural expression from southwest Louisiana known as Cajun music. Yet the music encompasses a wider variety of styles than most people realize, from slow ballads to the stereotypical dance hall numbers.

A brief history: The Cajun style evolved from early French-speaking colonists of Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia) who were forced from the eastern Canadian province in 1755 and made their way to the rural farmland of Louisiana, where they lived in relative cultural isolation—making spicy food and even spicier music.

Produced by Ann Savoy, a musician, author and folklorist, this album of Cajun songs features a stellar cast including John Fogerty, Richard and Linda Thompson (separately), Linda Ronstadt, Nick Lowe, Patty Griffin, Maria McKee, Rodney Crowell and David Johansen—backed by all-star Cajun musicians like Michael Doucet, Steve Riley, Dick Powell, Sonny Landreth and others. Savoy helped the artists with their French pronunciation so that they could sing the songs as originally intended, and the result is remarkably rewarding, especially if you can understand the lyrics or get an English copy.

Many of the songs are simple tales of lost loves or just rousing drinking and party songs ("my pockets are empty, but if you give me a drink I’ll come back tomorrow to pay you … please let the song keep playing" from "Arrêtte Pas la Musique"). This collection is a labor of love for all participants, and that good will shines through in the culturally rich music. Recommended.