Various Artists

Zydeco: The Essential Collection

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AllMusic Review by

As part of Rounder's 30th anniversary celebration, this album collects the finest zydeco available on the label within the last 30 years. As Rounder is one of the premier forces in archiving traditional musics, the liner notes are outstanding, with a nice history of the genre paying heed to the original innovators. Having paid the proper dues to the founders of zydeco, it proceeds to throw the listener into a musical collage of the more previous material (that which has been available on Rounder, that is). This newer material is essentially split stylistically into the followers of Clifton Chenier and those of Boozoo Chavis. In the Chenier camp are Nathan Williams, Lynn August, Li'l Brian Terry, and the outstanding Buckwheat Zydeco. In Boozoo Chavis' camp is Beau Jocque, among others. Every aspect of the genre is covered in some manner or another here, with the high-energy party zydeco of Buckwheat Zydeco, the funk-influenced Beau Jocque, the more Cajun end of it in Steve Riley, and the Delafose family providing numbers. There's even a nod to the founder, Amede Ardoin, in a couple of songs with his descendants, Chris and Sean Ardoin, who show off some incredible accordion work along the way. Throughout the album, it's a rollicking affair as the party-makers from throughout southern Louisiana make appearances with a song or two. As far as zydeco collections go, this is an outstanding one with all the necessary bases touched upon. For the newcomer, then, it's a wonderful album. For the initiated, it's still a good album for its breadth, though single albums by a number of the artists might serve as a longer lesson in the history of the genre.

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