Chris Ardoin, Unleashed (Maison de Soul)

Chris Ardoin, Unleashed, album cover

Chris Ardoin’s past few discs were released independently; then months, even years later, Maison de Soul Records would reissue the same, previously released title when it wasn’t exactly fresh anymore. Finally Ardoin and Maison de Soul have synced up, making Unleashed its only public offering that’ll be easier to procure. Buy on Amazon Buy on iTunesLike Unleashed’s predecessor Headliner, Ardoin played all instruments and tracked, mixed and mastered everything at his home studio. But to these ears, Unleashed is much more interesting. It’s a smartly crafted 16-song amalgamation of old school nouveau zydeco, contemporary soul-breezy R&B and rap-infused songs that achieves a rare yet delicate balance in modern zydeco, where the urban street influences don’t smother its zydeco counterpart. Zydeco tracks such as “Talk 2 Me Gud Whiskey” and “Go Boy Go” don’t mean Ardoin is attempting to reconnect with a departed demographic but push the envelope his way with whipping beats, DJ-like voiceovers and unbridled energy. “Kuntry Lyfe” bounces with a fat-bottom end and speaks to a Creole country life that’s often invaded by pretenders.

Where things get really exciting is with the pounding title track, “My People” and “Peepin’,” where Ardoin raps constantly. The accordion is still a peer in the arrangement; the atmosphere is electrifying and the lyrics infectious. Overall, everything is so well balanced that it reaches out to demographics beyond Ardoin’s normal, homey-hood constituency, making it one of his best ever.