Various Artists

Swamp Music, Vol. 3: Kings of Zydeco/Black Creole Music From the Deep South

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This volume of the historical Cajun music during the 20th century begins to get really interesting. This set has all the names associated with the origins of zydeco, including its two founding fathers, Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis, as well as John Delafose and Rockin' Sidney, as well as some more obscure -- though no less important -- members of the legacy as well: such as the Carriere Brothers and the Latwell Playboys. Over 16 cuts, the listener can hear, beginning with Boozoo Chavis, the stark Creole blues as it melds itself with the territorial -- music of Cajun country. Zydeco is dance music, party music, full of verve and life and a greasy kind of soulfulness that the strictly neo-French Cajun tradition doesn't touch. A listen to the blatant accordion blues of Rockin' Dopsie on "Who's Loving You" is bluer than most any zydeco tune, and an entire universe removed from the cadences and chansons of the Cajun fiddlers and singers of the era. Conversely, the very next track, "You Ain't Nothing but Fine" by Rockin' Sidney, which has become something of a Cajun classic, is (barely) a rewrite of an old rock classic, equal parts Cajun, zydeco, and rock & roll with a harmonized chorus and a guitar solo, as well as one for the accordion. But Chavis' and Chenier's cuts on the disc -- three each -- reveal the music in its purest form, swampy accordion Cajun fiddle melodies transformed into a blues of Creole distinction; John Delafose and Wilifred Chavis (no relation) take the new music further by keeping it close to its Cajun roots. Only later did Clifton Chenier, having heard the next generation of players, moves the blues directly into his playing, as evidenced by his track "Zydeco Is Back Again." While there is nothing on this record that is substandard, it is frustrating for the American listener in that none of the notes are in English and there are biographical details provided for all the artists included. It's the most irritating thing about Trikont as a label: they always do great and unusual music compilations, with usually fine notes, but they are erratic as hell when it comes to bilingual translation. There is no rhyme or reason whether something will be in both languages or not -- even within this series. This wouldn't be an issue if these records weren't distributed in the States, but they are. But if the music is all you're interested in anyway, these recordings are a great start for the beginning zydeco enthusiast and a compilation of gems for the seasoned collector or fan.

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