In the world of zydeco, being able to trace one’s lineage to Amédé and Bois Sec Ardoin is a little like having relatives in Windsor Castle while you keep an address in the shire. The old timers watched the precocious boy drumming at age four. It had to be in their minds that this one and his younger brother Chris might keep the circle unbroken. At least this much was certain: the zydeco gene was dominant. It showed when he picked up an accordion for the first time. Something happened. He wanted to make it a lead instrument, like the guitar heroes he heard all over the radio in those days. He wanted that instrument to sing lead and stroked it till it could. He could use it for rhythm, too; hell, he could use it for anything.
As a boy in the 1970s, radio crept into even the slowest parts of the state until Earth, Wind & Fire were blasting out of transistor radios in flat bottom boats zooming up and down Bayou Gauche. Sean Ardoin soaked it up, soaked up Prince too in the ’80s, and every other pop sensation to hit the airwaves. When the Ardoin Brothers finally formed, their pop sensibilities infused their zydeco with a ready-made sound for younger audiences. Then there was the highly touted Double Clutching, the split from his brother, and his new beginnings with Sean Ardoin and Zydekool. Sean had laid the ghosts of Amédé and Bois Sec to rest. He had his own band, his own sound, and fans, money, fame and women. Most of all, he had a secret. It wasn’t enough.
From the way he first played the accordion, he was used to testing boundaries to see how they would bend. He didn’t know how much they would give, didn’t know that they could actually break. And then there are the three bitches… sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, that go together like poison and Lucrezia Borgia.
July of 2005 was his epiphany. He needed to slow down or stop altogether. “God had to clean me up and teach me how to write and perform from a spiritual standpoint,” Ardoin says. God placed prophets in his way, he says, showed him what Christian zydeco was, and it was like Noah building the ark before ever seeing the first drops of rain. Five years later, Ardoin released what he claims is the first Christian zydeco album, How Great is Your Love.
Once you were born again, why didn’t you release your next albums as Christian albums? Why did you wait five years to release How Great is Your Love?
When you get saved and you’re a carpenter, you don’t start just building churches, you know what I mean? It was my job.
I wasn’t living the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that you may think. I would go out and play the dates and come back home and be a football dad. I was called out to clean up my perspective. I had to learn to write, perform and minister them from a spiritual place, not a prideful one.
Do you think you can survive musically by releasing only Christian albums?
Yes, definitely. I was called to do this. This is ordained by God and He will provide all that I need because I am willing to be obedient.
“How Great is Your Love” presents Ardoin as a man who’s journeyed down his own road to Damascus and sees with eyes anew. It is a joyful, hand-clapping ode to spiritual deliverance, and his vocals are flawless, charged with conviction. When the singing joins the back-up harmonies, the result is a first-rate hybrid of zydeco and gospel.
Like many Christian albums, the in-your-face proselytizing and lyrics filched from a Sunday sermon can be an issue. Ardoin attempts to soften it with urban idioms and hip-hop, but it’s hard to redeem lyrics like “Stop drinking so much” and “Stop eating so much.”
“Deep Water” and “Miracle” are the standout tracks. They thrive on tight harmonies and oldschool grooves that reveal a pulse behind the religious posturing. “Miracle” is reminiscent of early Earth, Wind & Fire, and soul and hip-hop figure prominently on the album. They not only shape the songs but force an inspired variety in Ardoin’s accordion playing. It’s an audacious album and when it works, it’s gold.
I ask him directly to tell me, in technical terms, how he achieves the harmonies that whisk through How Great is Your Love. They are no ordinary harmonies. If Sean Ardoin is truly touched by God, His spirit is manifested by the harmonies that whisk their way through the album. Like Peter, they are the “rock” on which Ardoin’s album/church is built.
“I can tell you it’s layered,” he says. “And I love Take 6 and all things harmonious. But I can’t tell you how I do it. It’s a secret.”
And what about God’s plans for him?
“I’ll let you know when he gives them to me.”