Saturday , May 21 2022
Reading "Way Down in Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop Music" by Todd Morton is the next best thing to taking a trip to the state and visiting the clubs and fais-do-do's yourself.

Book review: ‘Way Down in Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop Music’ by Todd Mouton

Way Down in Louisiana was a bit of a gamble for Todd Morton. He has delved back many years for a lot of the material, consisting of reviews and interviews with both well-known and lesser-known practitioners of Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop, the musical genres that originated in Louisiana, merely adding updates to the end of the articles.

Courtesy of Univ or Louisiana at Lafayette Press
Courtesy of Univ or Louisiana at Lafayette Press

It worked. The interviews, especially, provide fascinating tales and intimate  portraits of these people and an up-close look at the culture that is inextricably intertwined with the music. The photos alone are worth the cost of the book.

While the book includes everyone from Buckwheat Zydeco, Zachery Richard, Beausoliel, and a host of other musicians, the heart and soul of it is Clifton Chenier and his band members. Chenier was the father of Zydeco, and there is probably not a modern musician in Louisiana who has not been influenced by him. Yet until now, not a lot has been known about his life. Even though he left us some years ago, this book makes you feel as though you knew him well.

This book is like dipping into a scrapbook devoted to the music, with lots of black and white and color photos,show posters, tickets and other memorabilia. These are interspersed with well-written and researched pieces, mostly from the 1990’s, that were obviously written by a man who loves the people and music he covers. Mouton lives in Lafayette and has dedicated many years to promoting this music and culture.

If you love Creole, Cajun, Zydeco and swamp pop, you will return to this book again and again. If you are new to the music, some of it may be a bit much to take in. However, you will be absorbed in the photos and can get a good education by following the suggested playlists for each group.

Reading Way Down in Louisiana is the next best thing to taking a trip to the state and visiting the clubs and fais-do-do’s yourself. It is a fitting tribute to this vibrant, varied and distinctive music and the musicians past and present who have brought it to us, wherever we may be.

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1935754734]

 

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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