Various Artists

The Zydeco: The Early Years

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Zydeco: The Early Years doesn't necessarily represent the early years of zydeco itself, which had probably been around in several variations for decades prior to these tracks, most of which were recorded in the early '60s. This was still years before zydeco had reached anything close to the level of international esteem it now enjoys, and Chris Strachwitz, who made most of the recordings, was among the first to recognize the form's importance. In comparison to the boisterous full sounds of zydeco stars of the '80s and '90s, this is fairly primitive-sounding; usually there's nothing more than accordion, vocals, and washboard, although drums are sometimes present. It could use more variety, frankly, but these are significant documents of how zydeco sounded when it was music for friends and house parties rather than records or House of Blues clubs, and the music -- by artists including Albert Chevalier, Pete King, Willie Green, and Sidney Babineaux -- does have a rough, unforced, upbeat charm. As a nice bonus, both sides of Clifton Chenier's 1954 debut single are included (they're far more R&B-influenced than the field recordings here), and there's a 1949 jump blues-zydeco hybrid by Clarence Garlow, "Bon Ton Roulet."

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