Lawrence "Black" Ardoin

Tradition Creole

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It's a pretty general rule that Cajun music uses a fiddle, a zydeco, and a R&B band to complement the accordion's leading role. Well, Lawrence"Black" Ardoin must have figured rules are made to broken because fiddler Edward Poullard is in the band here and that touch helps make Tradition Creole one of the most distinctive zydeco discs around, one that sounds as fresh in its expanded CD version now as the original LP did in 1984.

It almost sounds like Poullard is playing with the band for the first time (not true) because he's all over the place, certainly far more prominent than Sean Ardoin's sax,. Lawrence Ardoin, the son of old-timer Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin, and now father/manager of newcomer Chris Ardoin, who is an appealing singer in his own right and, a solid, old-school accordion player who knows the spots to drop in his nothing-fancy fills.

The material is mainly Ardoin originals in the classic zydeco vein, but there are covers of the bluesy "Haunted House" (sung in French with a "Yakety Yak" feel), Cookie & the Cupcakes' swamp pop classic "Matilda," Rockin' Sidney's pop-rock zydeco, "What's Good For The Gander," and a vocal feature for Poullard in J.B. Lenoir's "Talk To Your Daughter." Zydeco godfather Clifton Chenier gets three uptempo credits ("Ay, Ai, Ai," "Nonc Edward," and "Every Now And Then").

"I've Been There" starts upbeat with fine drumming, two-step bass and a country-ish flavor courtesy of Poullard before --oh, the hell with details. They do blues, they do 2-steps, they play uptempo, they play downtempo, they sing in French, they sing in English, the playing is sometimes ragged but always right and the music flows so effortlessly it just zips right by -- and that's a compliment.

You know what the thing is about Tradition Creole? Genuine is one of those really loaded words to use about a roots form like Cajun or zydeco because it often implies a purist, traditionalist attitude that rejects any kind of craft or new influence as somehow unauthentic (ahh, there's another one of those words). But genuine fits here -- Ardoin and band sound like people who get together on weekends just to make the music they love for people to dance and listen to and don't care about anything but that.

Tradition Creole shouldn't replace Rhino's "Zydeco dynamite Clifton Chenier anthology, or one of the zydeco kingpin's '60s-'70s classics on Arhoolie as the starting point for newcomers. But it should be pretty damned high up there on the list because it's a really vibrant collection of music inspired only by the joy of playing, it's a great portrait of zydeco in its natural habitat.

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