Music From the Zydeco Kingdom
For years I disliked Cajun and Zydeco music. Unfamiliar with its roots and culture, and never having experienced it live, it was easy to agree with those who called Cajun "chunka-chunk" music - and I didn't know the difference between Cajun and Zydeco, except that Queen Ida played the latter. I have DJ Ed McKeon to thank for bringing me around. Every Wednesday at 8 AM, he created a half-hour "visit to Louisianna," which he inflicted on listeners as part of his otherwise excellent three-hour folk show on WWUH. It was like a weekly dance party, impossible to resist. Gradually, Ed's passion wore off on thousands of listeners around Hartford, and I became one of them. Still, I didn't own a Zydeco disc, nor did I know much about the music's history until this disc landed on my desk.
I say all this because I suspect that many of you may be in a similar position. Having been opened up to this music by radio and festivals, where do you start as a student and collector? This album is your answer. Compiled by Michael Tisserand as a companion to his excellent book, The Kingdom of Zydeco, this CD offers the listener a historical tour through Zydeco, from a 1929 recording by Amédé Ardoin to contemporary work by Chris Ardoin - and all the classics in between: Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavis, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, Buckwheat Zydeco, and of course, Queen Ida. It's hard to pick out favorites, but Rosie Ledet's "I'm Gonna Take Care of Your Dog" is one of the most memorable. What's most striking is the way the collection lays bare the roots of Zydeco in blues. The choice of songs truly gives the listener a chance to parse this music, to trace influences, stylistic changes, innovations and returns to traditional roots. This is a "definitive anthology" in the best sense - its not just inclusive, it really defines in an almost logical, step by step way, where Zydeco comes from, what it's made of, and what it does. Allons!