Various Artists

Zydeco Festival

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This is a collection of zydeco from early in the zydeco renaissance, when many of the shining stars of the genre were just beginning their careers as serious performers. The bulk of the works are items from the Maison de Soul catalog, but a few of the bigger names had to be licensed from other labels. The album opens with then-new Island artist Buckwheat Zydeco performing a relatively powerful rendition of "Zydeco Tous Pas Tous." It drops immediately into some Cajun in a very old style with the Carriere Brothers and a couple of more hyper numbers courtesy of Terrance Simien and Rockin' Dopsie. Chuck Martin provides a loping little number and Morris Francis (Dopsie's bassist) contributes a piece of feel-good '70s soul. The master of the form, Clifton Chenier, provides a version of what would become a signature hit for his protégé Buckwheat in "Hot Tamale Baby," and John Delafose starts a transition downtempo with a quietly driving number. Rockin' Sidney leaves a little bit of country in his piece, and Boozoo Chavis pumps out some outstandingly funky, if unintelligible, zydeco in a piece from his second album. After a bit from Wilfred Chevis, the album takes a turn toward second works from most of the artists featured in the first half. Chenier, Buckwheat, Dopsie, Sidney, and Chavis all contribute another song, with the streak broken by Michael Doucet footing the line between zydeco and Cajun music. Chevis and Chenier pave the way for the finale, which is another bit of feel-good music from the Zydeco Brothers, with a base in zydeco and a lyrical influence from gospel. This album is a fine compilation of zydeco in and of itself, and suffers only by comparison to other similar, newer compilations with a wider range to draw upon, such as Zydeco: Essential Collection on Rounder. Give it a listen for some of the rarer talents represented here, and use it as a starting point into further exploration if it's the only zydeco album available in your area.

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