Nathan Williams, leader of the Zydeco Cha Chas
Geno Delafose performing in Breaux Bridge, 2004.
That's Geno riding his horse on the cover of the
Creole Bred CD. (A dog named Suzie-Q is shown
running behind an accordion imprinted on the CD itself.)
Curley Taylor at the St. Ann's Catholic Church Grand
Boucherie in Mallet, 2004
Sean Ardoin performing at Lake Charles
Rosie Ledet at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Keith Frank at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Andre Thierry is a California Creole who visits
Louisiana on a regular basis, including Geno Delafose's Fan Appreciation
Ed Poullard at the Liberty Theater in Eunice in May
2004 performing with a Cajun band, Jesse Legé
and the Southern Ramblers. Poullard is at home playing in both Cajun and
Ann Savoy, producer of Creole Bred, performing
with the Savoy Family Band in March 2004 at the Liberty Theater in
Eunice, a program sponsored
by the LSUE Performing Arts Series.
After the success of the Grammy-nominated
Evangeline Made, an album produced by Ann Savoy that featured non-Cajun
musicians performing Cajun songs, Vanguard Records decided to have Savoy
develop a comparable CD of Creole and Zydeco music. The finished
product, entitled Creole Bred, ought to be another strong contender for
Though she is known mainly as a performer and
folklorist of Cajun music, Savoy has all along given prominence to
Creole and Zydeco music both in her research and in the music she
performs with the Savoy-Doucet Band, Magnolia Sisters, Savoy Family Band,
and other groups. Her book Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People
includes more than 100 pages on "Old Style Creole and Zydeco Songs,"
including her interviews with Clifton Chenier, Rockin' Dopsie, John Delafose,
Canray Fontenot, and Bois Sec Ardoin, among others.
Savoy told Herman Fuselier, entertainment editor
of The Lafayette Daily Advertiser, that the songs on the CD "are all my
favorites." She has, of course, included several songs by Clifton Chenier, the undisputed King of Zydeco, and songs by other Zydeco
musicians, but she also features Creole music, "a style," she says in
her liner notes, "formed in the kitchens and house parties, comprised of
fiddles, solo diatonic accordions and lone voices." The page facing
those notes has
a photograph of Creole musicians Bois Sec Ardoin, Freeman Fontenot, and
Canray Fontenot sitting on a front porch. It is the music in which
Zydeco has its roots and, especially through Bois Sec Ardoin's cousin,
Amédée Ardoin, it is also at the root of a lot of Cajun music as well.
For audiences unfamiliar with either Zydeco or Creole music, this CD should serve as an excellent introduction.
However, Savoy does not intend for it to replace the recordings made by
artists who are part of these traditions. Instead, it is a tribute by
other musicians from across the nation who recognize that Creole and Zydeco richly deserve an even wider audience.
If you like what you hear, then seek out recordings by the Creole and Zydeco musicians who
perform on the 12 tracks and by the many other Creole and Zydeco artists who are included in LSUE's music pages, plus scores of others who are not yet listed there.
Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas play on
four cuts, including the opening song, Cyndi Lauper's performance from a
female perspective of
Clifton Chenier's "Allons à Grand
Coteau," the Zydeco version of Joseph Falcon's "Allons
à Lafayette" (Grand Coteau, which
means big hill, is located about 20 miles north of Lafayette). Williams
joins Lauper on vocals for his own "Festival City," which
the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival held every year in
Plaisance the Saturday before Labor Day.
Willams' and his band play Chenier's
"I'm Coming Home," with vocals by three contemporary Zydeco standouts: Keith Frank,
Rosie Ledet, and Sean Ardoin, Anyone who has heard Ardoin sing his
showstopping version of this Zydeco classic will be happy to learn that
he has now at least recorded a portion of it.
Williams and the Cha Chas also play "Zydeco
Two-Step," a Chenier instrumental. The other Chenier song,
"Baby Please Don't Go," features piano accordionist Curley Taylor on
vocals with Darick and Phillip Campbell of the Campbell Brothers Sacred
Steel Guitars on lap steel and guitar. Taylor, a native of Sunset, is
relative newcomer as a Zydeco front man. After playing drums with Geno
Delafose for several years and being a musician much of his life, he
formed his own band, Zydeco Trouble, in 2003 and released his first CD.
With Williams as the chief
representative on the CD of Zydeco played on the piano accordion, Geno Delafose
demonstrates his mastery of the single-row accordion in the Creole
tradition. With Geno's accompaniment, Taj Mahal does the French vocals
for "'Tit Monde." Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet, who
performs on Geno's 2003 CD Everbody's Dancin' and who knows the Canray
Fontenot style well, also plays on this song and on "Two-Step de
Grand Mallet," with Geno on drums and Taj Mahal on vocals. David Hidalgo
of Los Lobos provides the vocals and the drums with Demetrix Thomas on
rubboard and Geno on accordion for a highly percussive version of "Mon
Conné la Cause," a song better known as "The Flames of Hell" ( as in
"save my soul from the flames of hell").
When Michelle Shocked was living in New Orleans,
those of us who are fans of her music could hope that she would decide
to include Cajun or Zydeco in her repertoire. She's now in California,
far away from Louisiana, but home to West Coast Creoles like Andre
Thierry, whose families emigrated there looking for a better future. On
the CD, she sings Boozoo Chavis' "Paper in My Shoe," the 1954 song that
became the first Zydeco hit single. Shocked, whose real name is Karen Michelle Johnson, sings the
lyrics in both English and French. It's the kind of song that evokes
both joy and images of poverty that Shocked included on her Arkansas
Traveler CD. Both Shocked and Chavis, in their own unique way, are
examples of living life on their own terms, without making concessions
to anyone (including recording companies).
The CD also has an example of the very old Creole songs that predate
the instrumental traditions. "Mon Homme Est Pas 'Rivé"
is performed by the Sweet Honey from the Rock, a female
African-American a cappella ensemble whose name comes from the 81st
Psalm. According to Marce Lacouture in the version of this song that she got from Inez Catalon, a Creole woman from Kaplan who died in 1994, the song
originated at a time when black men had to be home before dark. The
lyrics suggest that the singer fears for the safety of her man who has not yet returned.
There's also an example of contemporary Zydeco
with the Tom Tom Club's version of Keith Frank's "Only the Strong
Survive." The CD closes with some old style twin fiddling featuring Ed
Poullard and Darol Anger, with his fiddle tuned with low octave strings.
They play Canray Fontenot's "Old Carpenter's Waltz." Poullard began life
just south of LSUE in Richie before his family moved to Texas.
In short, Creole Bred is an excellent
companion to Ann Savoy's Evangeline Made. In her interview
with Herman Fuselier, Ann explained that Cyndi Lauper had actually been
listening to Evangeline Made on the plane on her way to New
Orleans the same day that Savoy met her backstage to ask her if she
would like to perform on Creole Bred. Together these projects
offered by Vanguard Records demonstrate the wide appeal of the music of
Southwest Louisiana, both among musicians from all over and among people
everywhere who respond with passion to the range of emotions this music