The Best of Louisiana Music
First, there is no way that all of the "best" of
Louisiana could fit on one CD --- there's just way too much great music
from that region to fit on anything less than a carload of "best of"
But with that said, Rounder Records' 1993 The
Best of Louisiana Music is pretty darned good. The Rounder staff did
a great job at sampling the vast tapestry of Louisiana music from their
various releases and making the 19 cuts sound well together. Just about
every regional style of music is included, from Zydeco to Cajun to
classic New Orleans R&B to brass bands and more. This one's a certified
party in a jewel case.
The disc opens with Beausoleil's version of "Bon
Temps Rouler," signaling the listener that this CD is going to get to
put everyone in a Mardi Gras frame of mind. The album then meanders in
and out of New Orleans, covering a lot of musical territory along the
way. Your favorite songs will likely depend on your mood at any given
time. Today I was in a brass band, "second line" frame of mind, and the
song that turned out to be my favorite was the Rebirth Brass Band's
version of the classic reefer song, "If You're A Viper"; Kermit Ruffins
raspy vocals stand out here. It's hard to believe that this song would
segue so well into an old time Cajun number, but the transition to "Les
flammes d'enfer," from the trio of Eddie LeJeune, D.L. Menard and Ken
Smith, is seamless.
In addition to more contemporary stuff, the disc
also includes Mardi Gras classics such as Professor Longhair's "Big
Chief, Part 1" and a version of "Carnival Time" from Bo Dollis and the
Wild Magnolias. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band checks in with a nice cover
of Longhair's "Mardi Gras in New Orleans."
The soulful crooner genre is well represented with
numbers from Johnny Adams ("Imitation of Love") and Chuck Carbo (a bawdy
It wouldn't be a Crescent City collection without
something from the Neville family --- included here is a young Aaron
Neville doing "Mojo Hannah" and The Meters with "Look-Ka Py Py."
From the Zydeco scene is Nathan and the Zydeco Cha
Chas with an energetic and somewhat raucous "Your Mama Don't Know."
Nathan sure knows how to get the audience into his
groove and he shows it here. Buckwheat Zydeco does the Clifton Chenier standard "Hot Tamale
Baby," and the album closes strongly with John Delafose and the Eunice
Playboys performing "Watch That Dog."
Other artists included here are Irma Thomas, Jimmy
C. Newman and Cajun Country, Mamou, James Booker, Bo Dollis and Willie
Tee with Dr. John, and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys --- all
contribute strong cuts.
Like I said at the beginning of the review, this CD
just starts to scratch the surface of the wealth of Louisiana music. But
if you are just starting your collection, it's a nice entry point.
--- Bill Mitchell