Various Artists

Swamp Music, Vol. 7: Legends of Zydeco - The Old School Strikes Back

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Featuring only two artists, Boozoo Chavis and John Delafose, playing their brand of zydeco in the modern era, this set highlights how the evolution of zydeco freed up each man to dig deeper into the blues traditions it saturated itself in to move out from the Cajun folk traditions. As an example, Chavis' "Boozoo That's Who" is a straight-up Chicago roll in the zydeco hay, with guitars knotting up the mix with fills and runs between the accordions' choruses. He follows it with the wonderfully filthy "Deacon Jones," whose tune is stolen right from Chuck Berry's fake book. It's the kind of dirty song young rappers of the 21st century would never in a million years have the sense of poetry to write. Because for Chavis, it's not boasting about himself or his own prowess, it's a story that's sexy and wild. By the time the third track rolls around, we get the picture. On "Blues All Around My Bed," with the washboard scraping out a syncopated rhythm, Chavis sings those blues straight out, like Big Joe Turner shouting every ounce of emotion from them. As for Delafose, it's a different kind of story: he digs into the soul and R&B end of the blues. Here, we get the sound of Memphis in his raw, heartbreaking songs, wringing teardrops from the accordion itself. Give a listen to "Loan Me Your Handkerchief" and feel that washboard rhythmically setting you up for that moaning accordion and Delafose's lonesome vocal. Likewise, his version of Clifton Chenier's "Morning Train" could have come from Willie Dixon just as well -- though I can't imagine Dixon using an accordion instead of a guitar or harmonica instead. Finally, Delafose's own, "Blues at Midnight," carries the soul of early doo wop and rock & roll into the blues and turns them all into a pure zydeco wonder. The blues singing is pure, but the accordion lines and the washboard shuffle it into contemporary New Orleans zydeco style, carrying with it a swaying, shimmying dance flavor that is impossible to resist. For those interested in the blues and R&B side of zydeco, this is your pick out of this series.

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