Review: Ernest James Zydeco - Jubilee
Tradition and Innovation
The band cooks with gas on“Refrigerator.” James sings with sly humor as he searches for something to eat at three o’clock in the morning. Shoulda gone to Town Topic, he shouts. No doubt. The guitar work darts in and out like a pesky mosquito, finally relenting to some Chuck Berry-style riffs.
“Eh Hosephine” sashays forth with a swamp blues sassiness. The resonator adapted as a slide guitar works its dark magic. The next track “My Little Josephine” is a kissing cousin overcome with lust; Latin hips and attitude slither around a snaky guitar, snazzy percussion, and James’ sexy intonations.
“Get Right Church” dips into a dub vibe as James testifies and confesses. The accordion adds dramatic tension as Tony LaCroix plucks guitar notes that underscore the soul-searching mood.
The band swings with “Thoughts of Venus,” taking a lighter, more melodic direction with this tale as the accordion and backbeat bounce along. “Courvoisier” is an all-out dance number as any song about fine booze should be. The band busts out a Bo Didley “hambone” groove on bass and guitar as James adds a melodic touch on accordion. Time to get down and dirty. James calls out the lyrics and wails like a happy-go-lucky auctioneer who’s had just enough from a snifter of Courvoisier in hand.
“Get Dub” reflects the influence of reggae with its hypnotic beat and chill vocals. The accordion percolates and bubbles over at just the right moments. Jaisson Taylor’s drumming pops like June bugs bouncing off the back door window screen.
On the dance floor, it’s time to get the skirts in a whirl with “Get Down to Big Mamou,” a more traditional number that prompts an aerobic workout with its quicker pace. No worry, there’s a bottle or two of Abita Jockamo I.P.A. (or Boulevard Single Wide I.P.A. for Kansas City loyalists) nearby to quench thirst, right?
The final number “Cry All Night” is a bluesy hymnal. Gentle as Roy Orbison, James croons with quite reverence. The guitar is sparse and stirring; the drumming is genteel. The song is a poignant weeper, a mournful goodbye.
There’s no question that Ernest James and his band play music with jubilation. They have forged a tight sound that wrings ample flavor – sweet, salty, smoky, spicy – out of a song for listeners to lap up. James is a consummate front man, singing with confidence and flare and leading his band as they craft rhythmic songs with feeling. Jubilee is a fine display of zydeco’s tradition of roots that remain open to adapting other forms of music and dance.