This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 136 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!
My “crate” is deep and varied and with this review I am looking at (with apologies to Monty Python) something completely different.
This CD album has the title ZYDECO – The Essential Collection.
It is a compilation album put out on the Rounder Heritage label and has the code Rounder 1166-1160
It was released in 2002 by the USA Rounder Records Corp and has 17 tracks and features 13 artists. It is is a gatefold style CD and comes with a booklet.
According to the cover, this CD is part of a thirty album heritage series, that was produced to celebrate the labels thirty years of existence.
So, what is Zydeco?
In some ways it is akin to Rock and Roll inasmuch as it has developed out of a melting pot of styles and even has its roots in a variety of countries.
One thing that is obvious is that is is great dance music that has its modern day origins in the Creoles particularly those based in and around South Louisiana.
The music has its origins in the American R&B, music from the Caribbean, Africa and the Cajuns who are spread throughout the Southern states of the USA, and are also found in Canada.
Whereas the guitar is the dominant instrument in rock and roll, it is the accordion that is the dominant instrument in Zydeco music (cajun music).
It is single-row diatonic button accordion as opposed to the multi-row instruments commonly used in Irish, Italian, polka, and other styles of music.
The Cajun accordion has multiple reeds for every button and the number of reeds sounding is controlled by four stops or knobs.
As the CD booklet points out, Zydeco is resilient. It is able to move and bend with the times and absorb all styles from evolving country music through to hip hop. Yet it keeps its essential sound of a propulsive drum and electric bass, with the groove these instruments set up ably supported by the accordion which also adds highlights.
Often integrated into the music are horns and the ever present “rubboard – a corrugated sheet metal vest played with either spoons or bottle openers.
The CD comes with a four double page booklet in semi-gloss black and white.
As booklets go it is average, and on a scale of one to ten I’d rate it at about 6.
It does come with a discussion on the artists and each track with details are provided and that’s great. However with one exception (the first inside page of the booklet) there are only a few low resolution black and white photo’s that really don’t do the booklet any favours.
Given this series is a celebration of the achievements of the label, thank goodness the music is brilliant, because the booklet falls short!
- 1. Let’s Go – Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas
- 2. C’est Pas la Peine Brailler (There’s No Use Crying) – Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie
- 3. Zydeco Boogaloo – Buckwheat Zydeco
- 4. Lula Lula Don’t You Go to Bingo – Boozoo Chavis
- 5. J’ai Reveille a Ce Matin (I Woke Up This Morning) – Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
- 6. I’m on the Wonder – Beau Jocque & The Zydeco Hi-Rollers
- 7. We Are the Boys – Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin’
- 8. I’m a Hog for You – Lynn August & The Hot August Knights
- 9. Madame Etienne – Bruce Daigrepont
- 10. Li’l Brian and the Zydeco Travelers – Bad Time Woman
- 11. What’s in That Bayou? – Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin’
- 12. Keep Your Dress Tail Down – Boozoo Chavis
- 13. Give Him Cornbread – Beau Jocque & The Zydeco Hi-Rollers
- 14. Friday Night Waltz – John Delafose
- 15. Outside People – Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas
- 16. ‘Tite Monde (My Everything) – Geno Delafose
- 17. Hot Tamale Baby – Buckwheat Zydeco
Let’s start with track number one, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas with Let’s Go.
A rollicking good track to kick off, gets the toes tapping and the feet a moving!
Nathan, is Nathan Williams. Williams grew up in a Creole-speaking home in St. Martinville, Louisiana, the youngest of seven children. He developed his musical sensibility in his hometown, a place rich in folk tradition, following in the footsteps of his uncle, the Cajun guitarist Harry Hypolite.
Nathan eagerly sought out the music of Zydeco originators such as Clifton Chenier. [Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas Biography]
Track 4 is impossible to go past. Boozoo Charvis and the Magic Sounds with Lula Lula Don’t Go To Bingo.
Now Boozoo Charvis is considered as having made the first modern zydeco record in 1954 but his success is also somewhat due to Eddie Schuler.
Schuler was not a musician but the owner of Goldband Records which was best known for its cajun/creole records throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Eddie Schuler, who passed away in 2005, was a man who was held in incredible high esteem right throughout his career. So when he approached Charvis with the idea of pairing him with a popular R&B group led by guitarist Classie Ballou, it resulted in a most unusual track, called Paper In My Shoe.
The track features then primal accordion work of Charvis playing in a different key to the band – but it worked and became a regional hit that then went onto sell over 100,000 copies after being released nationally.
That put Boozoo Charvis on the musical map!
Then in the 1970’s Charvis became disenchanted, some say he claimed he was disgusted with the music business, and he quit to train racehorses.
Then in 1984 he felt the time was right for a comeback, and it was very successful comeback. He quickly became the hottest attraction in the Louisiana and Texas dance halls.
He led a family band that were perfectly suited to his hard grooving style. In his group – Magic Sounds, were Charles Charvis on rubboard and vocals, Rellis Charvis on drums and Carlton Thomas on lead guitar, Nathaniel Fontenot on rhythm guitar and Classie Ballou Jnr on bass.
Apart from his music, Boozoo Charvis‘ other distinguishing feature was his texan hat!
Sadly Charvis passed away in May 2001 and the music world in general and zydeco music specifically lost a rural icon whose music and vision inspired several generations.
Lula Lula Don’t Go To Bingo
There really is so much good music on this album, I could have closed my eyes and chosen with a pin.
I did pause at track eight – Lynn August and the Hot August Nights who kick in with I’m A Hog For You.
Lynn August is a Lafayette based musician who is known for delivering drive and nuance, and this track is a perfect example.
The track is part traditional but re-worked by Clifton Chenier.
It is a really good example of the way the french cajun based music integrated the American R&B/Blues idioms to provide a zydeco track, that keeps the dance floor full of dancers.
August is one of a growing number of zydeco players that have successfully made the crossover from the dance halls to the corporate functions and what is more, he is comfortable in both extremes.
He was born in 1948 and came from a strict religious background. On his website he tells of how he became involved in music, and it is clear that his early influences have impacted on his being comfortable with the R&B/Blues style of zydeco music.
He wrote. “One Saturday night there was a well-known New Orleans-based musician by the name of guitar Slim that was performing at the Saturday night church function which my parents attended. What caught their attention was he had a blind piano player by the name of RC Robinson.
They spoke to the piano player briefly and found out that he was earning a living as a musician.
The piano player RC Robinson, we discovered three or four years later watching the Ed Sullivan show, actually turned out to be the music genius Ray Charles.
My parents would remember the times we would visit my aunt and uncle who had a record player. I would follow the sound until I would find that record player and would not move until they were ready to go.
Not long after that, we had a record player at our house I thought this was the greatest thing and it didn’t take too long before I knew all the words of the Fats Domino, Chuck Willis and Lloyd Price song’s.”
I’m A Hog For You
Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers fill track number 13 with Give Him Cornbread.
These guys just ooze enjoyment, in fact a few times I wonder if the cornbread may not have been code for corn whiskey – but no!
They are just having a great time which seems to be another essential element of zydeco music. One thing that stands out in this track is that it features some damn fine guitar licks from Ray Johnson.
In many ways it is one of the few zydeco tracks on this album that features the guitar as strongly as the accordion.
Jocque is considered to be Boozoo Charvis’ greatest disciple. Born in 1952, he initially learned accordion from his father while convalescing from an industrial accident. Having learned the basics he set himself the task of carefully studying the elements of Charvis’ music that made people get up and move.
He is one of the new breed of zydeco players not fearful at all of incorporating elements of music from other styles that he enjoys, and so he adds elements of funk and reworks tracks by Santana, ZZ Top and War.
At his peak he actually eclipsed the popularity of his mentor Boozoo Charvis and was destined to remain at the top of his game before his untimely death at the young age of 47, in 1999.
He appeared on popular shows such as Conan O’Brien and David Letterman.
As a result was instrumental in encouraging an even younger generation of young players into zydeco music.
When you listen to Give Him Cornbread, you might understand why.
Give Him Cornbread
Track seventeen, the final track is Hot Tamale Baby.
It features the man who has largely been responsible for the popularity of zydeco music through his brilliant button accordion playing – Buckwheat Zydeco.
Now there isn’t actually anyone called Buckwheat Zydeco, the man out front is in fact Stanley “Buckwheat”Dural Jr.
The correct name for the band is Buckwheat Zydeco Ils Sont Paris Band.
As often happens name contract and then the man out front all of a sudden takes on the persona of the band name – and hence Buckwheat Zydeco was born.
So really when we talk about Buckwheat Zydeco we are talking about the group – but, we are also talking about the man. Now, some words about Stanley Dural Jr.
His father, a farmer, was an accomplished, amateur traditional Creole accordion player, but young Buckwheat preferred listening to and playing rhythm and blues.
He started his career as an organist and for a while it looked like he had a career in R&B when he started playing with the likes of Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many other notable R&B artists.
Then in the early 1970’s he got a gig backing the legendary Clifton Chenier which led him to take up the accordion in 1978.
After practicing for a year, he felt ready to start his own band under the name Buckwheat Zydeco.
So in many ways when compared to other artists on this album, he is a new comer. However his powerful and evocative playing of the button accordion and the tightness of his group, Buckwheat Zydeco, catapulted him into popularity.
The group when this track was recorded consisted of:
* Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural – Accordion, piano & vocals
* Jimmy Reed – Guitar
* Calvin Landry – Trumpet
* Lee Allen Zeno – Bass
* Elijah Cudges – Rubboard
* Nat Jolivette – drums
His own composition Zydeco Boogaloo is a must play for almost every zydeco group playing today, and Buckwheat Zydeco’s almost nonstop touring has bought his music to millions and his fame now goes before him.
On this album he is one of a number of artists with two tracks, and his Zydeco Boogaloo is in fact track number three.
However I chose a track he has covered because it is probably the best version of Clifton Chenier’s most recorded track – Hot Tamale!
This version is Zydeco on steroids!
It’s pumped up and explodes. It would have to be played at the end, or surely near the end of any live performance, because it is doubtful the musicians would have much left after playing Buckwheat Zydeco’s version of Hot Tamale Baby.
Hot Tamale Baby
Is this the best compilation of Zydeco music?
I don’t know, because the only way to be certain would be to listen to most of the growing number of such compilations.
What is certain is that unless you are searching for a specific artists, such as Buckwheat Zydeco, then a compilation is the best way to bring zydeco music into your collection.
What I am also certain of is that this compilation cannot claim to have all the great zydeco artists. For instance Clifton Chenier has been mentioned in this review as a composer, but he is also one of the greats when it comes to artists.
I can only conclude the reason he is not on this compilation is because he is contractually tied to another label.
There are also other acknowledged great zydeco artists such as Beausoliel, who are not included.
However, this CD does have a fantastic selection including some of the very, very best. So in my mind it is a great album of zydeco music and it is an album worth having and, it is available through Ebay from $25.00 – $30.00 including postage.
Here are some live performance clips lifted from Youtube. I couldn’t (sadly) find a clip of a live performance by Buckwheat Zydeco of their popular Zydeco Boogaloo, but did find a great clip of New Orleans that has the track as a backing.
The Boozoo Charvis clip is poor, but VERY rare as it may be the only live clip of him performing.
Buckwheat Zydeco – Zydeco Boogaloo
Boozoo Charvis – Motor Dude Special
A clip from Louisiana Blues featuring Beau Jocques
John Delafose & the Eunice Playboys – Eunice 2 Step
Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Cha’s – Calinda
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:
#108: Paul Simon – Graceland