Various Artists

Best in Cajun & Zydeco: Homebrew

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Venturing out of their more common home of non-American musics, ARC Records released Homebrew in 2003, a collection of Cajun and zydeco music named in part after the classic Boozoo Chavis song. The focus here is primarily on the Cajun end of things, with the more strictly zydeco works only holding a small part among the crowd. The album opens up with one of the greatest exponents of the Cajun revival in Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, who bridge the generation gap between the old and new in Cajun. Quickly following is the traditionalist Eddie LeJeune, followed himself by T-Mamou, a group from Mamou with a newer look at the old classics. Rosie Ledet, the current queen of zydeco, turns the page to the black side of the music temporarily, though the album turns immediately to the saddest of songs with Dewey Balfa's "J'ai Pleurer" (written after losing his son, wife, and two brothers in a short span of time). Cajun Gold provides a nice little two-step, followed by the venerable Nathan Abshire's "I Don't Hurt Anymore (aka On Top of Old Smokey)." Don Rich mingles Cajun and zydeco rather effortlessly, followed by the iconoclastic Cajuns of Charivari. The Magnolia Sisters provide a womanly update of the music on an old Joe Falcon piece, followed by the great Boozoo Chavis. A relative of the Balfas, Courtney Granger, turns in a nice fiddle number, followed by the bouncing fun of Rockin' Sidney. The Mamou Playboys contribute a piece of high-quality Cajun, Johnnie Allan adds in some "swamp pop," and the great Geno Delafose puts up a nice piece of contemporary zydeco. The album finishes up on a second contribution from Beausoleil, completing the circle. What this album is, ultimately, is a nice Cajun compilation, comparable in many ways to some of the older Arhoolie compilations. Many of the greats of Cajun music are represented, and many of the great songs are included. On the zydeco side of affairs the album is perhaps somewhat more lacking, most likely due to licensing problems. Neither of the Cheniers are here, nor Buckwheat Zydeco, nor Beau Jocque. Boozoo is the only real heavyweight included, and while the performances from the newer performers are certainly worth hearing, the lack of founding figures makes the album somewhat lopsided in favor of the greater focus on Cajun. Pick it up for the Cajun, and go to Rounder's catalog for the zydeco.

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