How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Gaga for Ya-Ya is a zydeco anthology meant to accompany the best-selling mother-daughter novel The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.
A music soundtrack to a book is a curious marketing concept, but you don't need to read the novel to appreciate this CD. Gaga stands on its own as a toe-tapping overview of contemporary zydeco. Its 14 cuts feature some of zydeco’s best-known artists, including Buckwheat Zydeco, Boozoo Chavis, Terrance Simien, Geno Delafose and Beau Joque, and the songs are among the artists’ best.
If you haven’t discovered zydeco, you’re missing out on one of the most joyful forms of music ever invented. Zydeco is dance music developed by the Creoles of Louisiana. It blends Cajun rhythms and traditional Cajun melodies with blues and R&B. Every zydeco band includes an accordionist and a rub board player, along with more conventional musicians such as a guitarist, bassist, drummer, saxophonist, etc. (A rub board is a percussion instrument much like a washboard that’s played by rubbing its corrugated surface with special spoons.)
Zydeco is upbeat, soulful, and for the most part, refreshingly unprocessed music. It's difficult to sit still listening to good-time songs like Buckwheat Zydeco's rowdy version of "Hot Tamale Baby" or Danny Collet and The Swamp Cats' catchy "Juke Box Songs." Gaga offers more traditional tunes like Terrance Simien's New Orleans medley "Iko Iko/Brother John/Jambalaya," as well as more contemporary cuts like the funk-zydeco rave-up "Come Go With Me" by Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers.
While most of the tracks on Gaga are danceable, the CD also delivers a couple of fetching ballads, including Simeon's beautifully atmospheric tribute to the late John Delafose, "May Your Music Live On," and Collet's traditional sounding Cajun chanson "J'Menui De Toi."
Gaga for Ya-Ya makes for excellent party music while serving as a fine introduction to contemporary zydeco.