Various Artists

Rough Guide to Cajun & Zydeco

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This installment of the Rough Guide's music series features the Cajun and zydeco genres of Louisiana in all their aspects. As with all Rough Guide albums, the spectrum of music featured is really the outstanding feature. The album starts out (as it rightly should) with Clifton Chenier, the founder of modern zydeco and the undisputed king of the form before his death. It then moves on to his heir in Buckwheat Zydeco's "Zydeco Boogaloo." From there, it takes a turn into a section of more Cajun works, with David Doucet's guitar work and Jimmy Newman's country-flavored zydeco. After a quick stop at the Caribbean-influenced zydeco of John Delafose, it returns to Cajun territory with numbers from Beausoleil, Michael Doucet (of Beausoleil), the Savoy-Doucet band (featuring Michael Doucet), and Eddie Lejeune's stripped-down setup of three instruments. After this sojourn in the whiter end, it goes back to zydeco with a piece from the more modern Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas and the ancient Cheese Read. An interesting work follows from the California Cajun Orchestra, with a thicker, more traditional (read: lower speed) sound, possibly due to their home being in the Bay Area. The album then moves back toward the Cajun end with the full-fledged country sound of Jo-El Sonnier, followed by the anthem of both genres in Buckwheat Zydeco's "Let the Good Times Roll." The finale of the album is the old "Cajun Hank Williams" sound of D.L. Menard. Overall, the album is missing a few notable figures in the genres (such as Boozoo Chavis and Beau Jocque), but it still manages to provide a pretty thorough picture of the sound in what it does have. Both sides of the coin (Cajun and zydeco forms) are represented equally, and are given fair shots at showing off their wonders. Anyone looking to get a taste of either genre can find a worthwhile compilation in this one, and those who are already enveloped in the sounds of the region can probably pick out a couple of new finds to listen to at the same time. Enjoyable in all the right ways.

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