Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, Keep the Tradition Alive! (Maison de Soul)

Twenty years ago, Jeffrey Broussard unknowingly rerouted the course of zydeco simply by incorporating the double-clutching beat (two quick bass drum kicks followed by a snare rap) into the rhythmic attack of his band Zydeco Force. That, along with the predilection for the single-row accordion and the sexy dancing of Zydeco Force’s following, laid the groundwork for nouveau zydeco and paved the way for Beau Jocque, Keith Frank, Rosie Ledet and countless others. Since then, a lot has happened. Trendsetters J. Paul and Chris Ardoin have expanded upon Broussard’s innovation with so much hip-hop, rap and contemporary R&B that those weaned on it hardly recognize zydeco’s more modern incarnation. Ironically, that’s where Broussard comes in, reverting to trad in order to entice the older demographic back to the dancehalls and embrace their cultural music once again.

His “new” sound falls squarely between Creole la-la and today’s nouveau variety. There’s a strong current of Boozoo with four selections revealing how close Broussard can play in the style of the legendary, influential figurehead. (D’Jalma Garnier also adds to the Boozoo jangly feel by emulating his longtime guitarist “Guitar” Thomas with lots of moving chords.) Nine of Broussard traditional originals with several sung in Creole French, something that the younger generation usually bypasses. Of these originals, three are waltzes, another missing ingredient from today’s breed. Interestingly, “Broussard Baisse Bas” gives a nod to the baisse bas, the Creole knee-dipping waltz that’s practically extinct.

The other thing apparent here is how skilled Broussard is as a musician. Besides his clear, crisp, sometimes ringing touch on accordion, he handles bass and rhythm guitar duties on most tracks. A few years ago, Broussard took up the Creole fiddle. That, too, was thought to be on the verge of extinction based on its small number of practitioners. Today, Broussard is accomplished enough to maneuver in any direction desired, whether it’s laying down a groove (“Oh Mom”), cutting a country-dance rug (“Creole Zydeco Hot Step”) or traveling back to the music’s recorded roots with an old-timey fiddle-accordion duet (“Tribute to Amedee”). Overall, this recording captures the essence of zydeco and explores all its richness, in addition to being great dance music.