A two-film retrospective on Zydeco, Blu-rays

by | Sep 8, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

A two-film retrospective shows the joys of Zydeco!

Kingdom Of Zydeco – Blu-ray (1994/2016)

Cast: Boozoo Chavis; Beau Jocque, John Delafose; Nathan Williams, Sid Williams
Studio: MVD Entertainment Group Visual MVD7500BR
Director: Robert Mugge
Audio: PCM 2.0
Video: 1.33:1 for 1080p HD color
TrackList/ Chapters: Do It All Night; Damballah; Gilton; My Pauvre Mamam; Zydeco Boogie Woogie; Joe Delafose; Motor Dude Special; Dog Hill; Gone A La Maison Give Him Cornbread Forty One Days
Extras: Iguanas In The House; Introduction To TheKingdom; A Royal Title
Length: 71 minutes
Rating:    Audio: ****       Video: ****      Overall: ****


Zydeco Crossroads – A Tale Of Two Cities – Blu-ray (2016)

Cast: C.J. Chewier; Rosie Ledet; Sean Ardoin; Andre Thierry; Louis Michot; Corey Ledet; Buckwheat Zydeco; Nathan Williams; Chubby Carrier; Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. and many others
Studio: MVD Ent. Group Visual  MVD7923BR
Director: Robert Mugge
TrackList: Zydeco Boogaloo; I’m Going Home; You’re No Good To Me; Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm; Les Barres De La Prison; Got A Party Goin’ On At El Sol’s; Lookin’ For What You’re Looking For; That L’Argent; Jackpot; Tu Le Ton Son Ton; Creole Men; Backbone; Josephine; Zydeco Crossroads; Baby What You Want Me To Do; Zydeco Feeling; Trail Ride; Zydeco Crossroads
Audio: PCM 2.0
Video: 1.78:1 for 1080p HD color
Extras: Rosie’s In The House
Length: 142 minutes
Rating: Audio: ***1/2       Video: ***      Overall: ***1/2

MVD Entertainment has released a pair of informative Blu-ray documentaries about Zydeco. Both are directed by Robert Mugge and offer anecdotal and performance-based accounts of this fascinating musical hybrid. The Kingdom Of Zydeco travels to the source, Southwestern Louisiana, to examine the culture of Zydeco. The two main characters are sixty-three-year-old legend Boozoo Chavis and his “nemesis’ thirty-nine-year-old Beau Jocque. The tongue-in-cheek premise is a “battle of the bands” between the two stars.

There are many live performances that showcase Chavis’ more traditional approach and Jocque’s commitment to a funkier updated sound. The viewer learns about the origins of Zydeco (French Cajun/ Afro-Caribbean) and the development of the club scene in and around Lafayette, Louisiana. While the feuding stars play up the rivalry, it is clear that it is a communal art form. With the button accordions blasting away, the two performers (and a snippet of others) exhibit the danceable accessibility of a good Zydeco band. In particular. director Mugges allows the music to tell the tale, and doesn’t bog down the proceedings with overly-detailed historical narrative. There is one hilarious story by a club/store owner and his “peacemaker” settling down the rowdiness. The audio quality (stereo) is good, but the video restoration (from 1993 or ’94) is only adequate. But it is fun to watch.

The second film is titled Zydeco CrossroadsA Tale Of Two Cities. This riveting documentary chronicles the year-long project by iconic Philadelphia public radio station WXPN to unite Zydeco with The City Of Brotherly Love. It is a natural fit, with both cultures steeped in blues and r&b. After a brief setup by the radio management, there is a plethora of vibrant zydeco performances at different venues around the city. And C.J. Chenier gets the party started with a pair of songs, including one by his late father Clifton (who recorded the first Zydeco record in 1954). There are many standouts including the riveting, soulful Rosie Ledet. Philadelphia has been a bastion for soul music, so the music by the Louisiana groups resonates with Philly music-goers. Legends like Buckwheat Zydeco underscore the rich tradition of the genre. And nobody represents the high energy of Zydeco better than Rockin’ Dopsie. There is a visceral connection to blues in this music. His cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” is awe-inspiring. In each movie, the accordions (both standard and button) just seem cool. This film does a better job with a fuller stereo mix. Mugges keeps the focus on the artists with few crowd shots and some effective closeups on the accordion techniques.

These movies are a great introduction to anyone who wants to get into Zydeco. Diehard fans will also like these documentaries.

—Robbie Gerson