Chris Ardoin
& Double Clutchin',
Best Kept Secret
(Rounder, 2000)

Best kept secret? Not if anyone who appreciates zydeco music has anything to say about it. Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' offer up a stellar CD of smooth, tightly produced songs that place Ardoin and his band in the zydeco firmament.

Before I go any further, I just want to clarify something: "zydeco music" and "Cajun music" are not interchangeable terms. While they originated in the same region of the country and each has contributed to the other, if you pick up a zydeco CD and expect to hear Cajun music, it is likely that you will be disappointed.

Zydeco music is essentially dance music; in fact, Ardoin's family is known for setting the pace at concerts and festivals. The music features accordion and scratchboard (also called rubboard) and a strong driving beat.

On Best Kept Secret, Ardoin plays accordion, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, rubboard and second bass on "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." He also sings lead and background vocals. One would think that he wouldn't need a band, but Ardoin is backed up more than ably by Nat Fontenot (rhythm guitar, lead guitar on "Best Kept Secret"), Curley Chapman (bass, rubboard and background vocals) and Dexter Ardoin (drums). Charles Elam III provides backing vocals on several tracks.

While there is some similarity among the tracks, Ardoin instills each with subtle individuality, whether it's a lyric that catches your ear and won't let go, the crisp frenzy of Ardoin's accordion or the energized arrangements. The band's cover of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" is nearly manic in its intensity. "Storm Don't Last Long" has a hint of gospel in it while "Chris's Trail Ride" has a cowpoke's lope. "Lyin' Cryin' and Tryin'" has a catchy chorus: "I was lyin' just to get you/I was cryin' when I got you/Now I'm trying to forget you." And in "What's in That Bayou?" you can practically smell the swamp.

The songs flow into each other well, and there isn't a bad track on the CD. Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin's Best Kept Secret is a keeper.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 18 May 2002

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