Michael, I am from Lafayette, the Cajun/Zydeco capital! I would sugget the following:
You can't go wrong with any of those!
Thanks Audiohorn. I will start hunting locally then hit the internet merchants if necessary.
The best release for exploring zydeco is Rhino's
"Zydeco Dynamite - The Clifton Chenier Anthology".
He's the master and it collects tracks from the many
labels he recorded for over his long career.
An important consideration is that zydeco is very much
a live music. Go see it somewhere to learn what it is
really about. Or at least explore some live CDs.
One name I'd definitely add to Michaels's list above is
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. For a single act to
see, I think he's the best. Lot's of energy and a big
variation of styles while keeping the traditional sounds.
He plays the button accordion (squeeze box), the "piano"
accordion (the full size accordion), and the fiddle.
And his band includes fiddle or sax so he can do the
older dual fiddle style, and also the newer rocking sax
style. And don't forget to bring your dancin' shoes !
Steve Riley is a Cajun musician, not zydeco.
Thanks Roger- I am always drawn to the live recordings.
Say Audiohorn, I should been more inclusive in my question. Do you have any recommendations of work by Cajun musicians to add to your first post?
I have a great recommendation for this! A band called "Coteau", featuring Michael Doucet of the band Bea Soleil. They are referred to as the "Cajun Grateful Dead". The CD is called "Highly Seasoned Cajun Music". Great, great music!!
Putomayo Presents Zydeco is a terrific sampler and introduction. Then individual cds by the artists represented there. If you don't like Rosie Ledet's You're No Good For Me ("I want you so bad, I want you so bad, and Baby, that ain't good"), you must be dead.
Steve Riley does play more cajun than Zydeco, but that's a line that can be hard to distinguish. I'm not from cajun country, but Riley's music has the drive that I associate with Zydeco. And he definitely does play some zydeco.
I see zydeco as a sub-genre of cajun in much the same way as R&B or early rock is a sub-genre of blues. What Clifton Chenier did to develop Zydeco from Cajun is much the same thing that Muddy Waters did to delta blues when he moved to the city and went electric. Make it faster and louder so the dance floor goes nuts. Maybe add a drum kit or a sax and mix up the traditional sounds with some other genres. Most music ends up bluring into an mixture of the styles that influenced the various players.
If we're moving on to cajun then I can't help but recommend the best known cajun band, BeauSoleil.
One comment on Audiohorn's list, the last 2 artists, Terrence and Buckwheat, are great musicians and started playing zydeco, but IMHO have moved so far from the roots that I would not recommend them as a way to learn the genre. You may like them, but I like to learn where the music first cam from before exploring the fringes of a style.
By the way, I highly recommend seeing Beau Jacques too.
Lots of energy and a respect for the original sound. Also, I'm not sure if Clifton's son C.J Chenier is still playing, but his band gets the zydeco groove going too.
Beau Jocque (note the spelling of the pseudonym) died in 1999. Can't see him.
Just a thanks to all of you. I have purchased works by all of the artists mentioned and am enjoying them all. This takes me out of a rut.
Here is a true "small world" story. This afternoon, a rather sophisticated looking young woman who works for a snotty architectural firm came to our Miami, Florida office for a consultation. Shortly after she began her presentation in the office next to mine, the Putumayo Zydeco CD I ordered arrived in the mail. Being a dedicated worker,I immediately put it in my computer and gave it a good listen on the four speaker / subwoofer setup.
Instead of immediately leaving, she lingered until everyone dispersed and told me she liked the music. As I am now a so called expert, I told her it was Zydeco, and she laughingly replied that she was familiar with the artists-turns out she is a Cajun from Lafayette.
How about that!
She recommended the Grant Street Dance Hall in Lafayette. I will give it a visit soon.
Another great performer and recording artist in this class that I hadn't seen named is Zachary Richards. He does the squeeze box and the singing with a cajun band -- Excellent!
Wayne Toops and Zydecajun
I'm glad you liked the Putomayo cd Michael, and that it was appreciated by that sophisticated lady. Come on now, what did you think of Rosie Ledet?
Yep!! I also own that Putomayo Zydeco cd and I absolutely LOVE it.
I have about 8 Putomayo CDs so far and I love every one of them. Some of the best CDs I've ever heard. Can't wait to get some more.
The Jamaica and Reggae Around the World CD are probably my favorites. :)
I say Rosie Ledet is raw, refined, rough, and sweet in one jamming package.
I really appreciate artists, like her, who don't remind me of another artist.
She is on the list of acquisitions for the month of January!
Ultimate Zydeco a collection from Mardi Gras is a nice cross section of authentic music from both traditional and newer performers, 17 cuts most really good, highly recommended. BTW Tried Buckwheat Zydeco's" Some like it hot". Except for the first song not really that interesting; too derivative for my taste,
The Cajun All-Stars. This has Sonny Landreth on guitar and Michael Doucet from Beausoleil on fiddle to name a couple. Great instrumental Cajun/Zydeco music and excellent sound.
Boozoo Chavis - Lake Charles Atomic Bomb - an old Rounder recording by one of the 2-steppinest masters of the green bean.