J.J. Reneaux,
Wake, Snake!
Children's Stories and
Songs of the South

(August House, 1998)

Storyteller J.J. Reneaux combines childhood memories, traditional stories and songs into Wake, Snake!, a delightful jambalaya of Southern heritage.

Reneaux kicks off the hour-long tape with the traditional Southern song "Wake, Snake!," then makes a smooth transition into personal stories from her childhood summers. Throughout the tape, these bridges cover a typical summer day, starting with the morning and stretching into evening.

Reneaux's Cajun roots show in her voice with her telling of "Lapin's Sweet Tooth," a Cajun trickster tale in which Lapin (Rabbit) satisfies his craving for sweet honey. Next is "John the Rabbit," a lively African-American call and response song. More personal stories follow, including an encounter with a rattlesnake, which bridges neatly into "How Animals Saved the People," a Choctaw tale. Side one finishes up with another round personal stories about the local swimming hole and making ice cream and a string of childhood rhymes.

Side two starts with the rhyme "Miss Mary Mac." A story about spotting an alligator after an afternoon thunderstorm leads to another Cajun tale, "Why Alligator Hates Dog." Reneaux follows up with an original song about how to deal with alligators and avoid a "Mess of Trouble." Next up, Reneaux reminisces about wandering the woods in the evening and animals they'd glimpse, following it with the Cherokee story "Why Possum Has a Bare Tail." The tape closes with Reneaux's original "The Possum Song" and "What Was That?," a recollection of a memorable backyard camp-out.

Reneaux's expressive Southern accented voice glides seamlessly from song to story and is pure pleasure to listen to. Back up music features guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Cajun triangle and spoon percussion and the snappy tunes accent the stories beautifully.

Nothing beats hearing a storyteller live, but Wake, Snake! comes so close that you half expect to see Reneaux in your living room -- not to mention a "lapin" or "cocodrie" or two. This is a storytelling experience the whole family can enjoy -- for true!

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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