If you only heard selected cuts from this disc, you’d never guess that Ernest James Zydeco comes from a land famous for barbecue and a regrettably woeful football team—Kansas City. The band, led by namesake accordionist Ernest James, smacks it hard on a handful of vintage zydeco tracks that feature Wilders’ fiddler Betse Ellis. But EJZ is also far enough from proverbial cultural lines that the group isn’t afraid to inject its own—sometimes humorous—personality on this all-original affair. There’s usually a tie-in somewhere to the zydeco canon such as the “Hot Tamale Baby” intro of “Lookin’” and the John Delafose-lolloping “You Made Me Cry” riff on the Cajun-esque “Shake It Sugaree.” Though “Janitor” is sans accordion, rhythmically it borrows from Delafose’s “Joe Pete Got Two Women.”
While EJZ doesn’t attempt to mask as a Louisiana-East Texas zydeco aggregation, lyrically “Whoa Sally” spills all the beans—no sea level zydeco band would ever sing about being in a basement. “Zydeco Mother’s Day” is almost hysterical with drummer Jaisson Taylor’s convincing John Lee Hooker imitation.
But since EJZ hails from such a jazz- and blues-endowed city, the group can’t always be about zydeco. Songs stray off into the rock and Americana realm: “Red Cross People” features a clickin’ groove and jamming electric resonator guitars. Some tracks even feature steel guitar. As its title implies, “Glory Glory” is a rousing gospel that, interestingly, includes a banjo among its arrangement arsenal. For such a roots fusion, it works.