Zydeco Playboys – Just Do It
Self-Release – 2021
13 tracks; 54.21 minutes
When you see Zydeco you think of Louisiana, but this one comes from “downsouth Germany”, courtesy of a long-standing five piece led by “Mr Zydeco” Oliver E Kraus (lead vocals, accordion and keys) who is joined by Richard Schwarz (drums, rubboard), Volker Klenner (guitar), Thomas Küsters (bass) and Christoph Dreyfuss-Wilde (rubboard, percussion); everyone helps out on backing vocals and Volker sings lead on the only cover as well as contributing one instrumental tune. The remaining material is all written by Oliver and includes some straight-up Zydeco tunes as well as other catchy material aimed at the feet. Oliver and Richard are original members of the band and the current line-up has been going since 2005; guitarist Volker studied with Ronnie Earl and made an album some years ago with Ronnie’s Broadcasters, including Bruce Katz.
We start with “Mr Zydeco’s Dance”, the accordion supported by handclaps, whistling and backing vocals, the rest of the band entering on the second verse as Oliver prescribes zydeco as the cure for what ails you! The accordion again leads on the intensely catchy “Whatta Kind Of Money Do You Like” in which Oliver reckons that he can tell what sort of person you are by the money in your purse, be it earned, lent or stolen. The pace drops for “Wanderlust”, a song about the urge to travel away from home with Volker playing some country-infused licks before the cajun-flavored “C’est Tout Y A!” which is almost an instrumental with a few minimal lyrics in French; the insistent percussion and accordion lead to a guitar-led section in which Volker sounds uncannily like Dickey Betts of the Allmans jamming with a Cajun band. Volker then takes over lead vocals for a good version of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” with plenty of accordion fills. Of course, the song namechecks New Orleans and Chuck gave the song the sub-title “C’est La Vie”, so it’s a perfect fit for a zydeco band!
Having dabbled in French, Oliver then tries his hand at some Spanish in “Lleno De Vida” which has something of an island feel, especially with lyrics like “lying in a hammock – man – with a cold drink” but we are soon back in zydeco territory with the tale of a “Backyard Lady” who sounds like a real handful: “she’s a hot-blooded devil, and she burning me out”. We finally make it to Germany with the instrumental “Choucroute A La Allemande” before “Gros Coup” which mixes French and English and sounds pretty authentic with lyrical references to the bayou, as well as another lyrical solo from Volker. Plenty of bayou sound effects open “The Gator Groove” which buzzes along for over five minutes, making it the longest cut on the album.
The title track is a short and sweet invitation to ‘do your own thing’, played to a frenetic rhythm section overlaid with rocking guitar and accordion. There is time for one more foray into Spanish with “Una Cerveza Y Dos Copas De Vino” which this time blends polka rhythms with zydeco in celebration of the demon drink. Volker’s closing instrumental tune “Last Island” is something of a departure, a stately guitar instrumental though the accordion takes the central solo.
Confession: zydeco is not my favorite type of music but this is a thoroughly enjoyable album.