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Published: 2004/05/29
by Scott Medvin

Creole Bred: A Tribute to Creole and Zydeco – various artists

Vanguard Records 841-2
Creole and Zydeco music, two quintessential elements of Louisiana society, are about as far from the mainstream record racks as can be. The lullabies and ballads of the Creole side are descended from early Acadian, French, and Anglo-Saxon folk songs, while Zydeco blends traditional elements with soul and R&B, adding electric instruments to pump things up a bit.
In the jamband world, where most groups draw on bits and pieces of a wide variety of genres to create their own style, it is difficult to find one band that incorporates these distinct sounds. Even fans of diverse, quirky, and downright strange forms of music from all over have never heard Zydeco unless someone who loved it played it for them.
That’s what this album is: someone who loves something giving a little piece of it to you. Producer Ann Savoy is an expert on the relationship between Cajun culture and its music. In addition to her scholarly work on the subject, she has also released four albums with her husband Marc, who happens to be a leading preservationist of traditional Cajun music. He’s even a master accordion builder. So both Ann and Marc have a well-intentioned interest in spreading this music far and wide.
For this compilation, Ann Savoy has brought together a seemingly random assortment of semi-popular musicians including the Campbell Brothers, Cyndi Lauper, and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and put them together with some of the best players in Creole music today. Many of the tracks sound very similar to one another, perhaps a side effect of translations faithful to the originals. But the Tom Tom Club’s "Only the Strong Survive" pulses with little bits and pieces of new wave goodness, and Taj Mahal’s grittily gorgeous voice rasps out two tracks, both in a distant cousin of French found only in Louisiana.
If you’re from Louisiana or like Zydeco and Cajun music already, this album comes highly recommended. If you’re open-minded to foreign-sounding music, you might want to check it out as well. The traditional players – such as fiddler Michael Doucet, who appears all over the album – are as good as a musician as you’d find anywhere. Try something new and different, break out of the box, experiment: what’s the worst that can happen?

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