various artists,
Zydeco: The Essential Collection
(Rounder, 2002)

Zydeco: The Essential Collection features a style of Creole music, unique for its emphasis on strong accordion. This collection is traditional zydeco, with a great assortment of styles and tunes. It begins with a cha cha, progressing through country-western, foxtrot and others. Throughout the album, the music remains quick and lively, with an upbeat attitude.

The music originates in southern Louisiana, incorporating rhythm and blues, African and Caribbean music to create a new American style. Several songs have French titles, such as Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie's "'Tite monde (My Everything)" and "C'est pas la peine brailler (There's No Use Crying)," and "Ja'i reveille a ce matin (I Woke Up This Morning)" by Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys.

This sampler album from Rounder has many great names in Louisiana music, providing an excellent range for new listeners and enthusiasts. For instance, Buckwheat Zydeco, who has brought the music to TV across the United States, is featured on two tracks ("Zydeco Boogaloo" and "Hot Tamale Baby") in this collection. The strong beat makes these ideal dance tunes.

The accompanying booklet explains the history of zydeco. It provides song titles and artists but none of the lyrics. Still, dance tunes -- like John Delafose & the Eunice Playboys' "Friday Night Waltz," "What's in That Bayou" by Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin', and "Keep Your Dress Tail Down" by Boozoo Chavis & the Magic Sounds -- have their own distinct styles. The songs are mostly instrumental, emphasizing the warm, vibrant beat of this unique style of Southern music.

- Rambles
written by Valerie Frankel
published 24 May 2003

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