True to the root

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Much is made of the apparent fact that younger blacks these days aren’t at all interested in — or respectful of — the music of their elders. They don’t want to be bothered with the blues, haven’t got the patience for jazz, and have all but written off the rock ’n’ roll pioneered by the likes of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix.

Yeah, well, it ain’t necessarily so.

On Funky Nation, a true-to-the-root zydeco album that seamlessly incorporates the elements of more modern styles of music often associated with African-Americans such as rap and R&B, the five young members of Texas-based L’il Brian and the Zydeco Travelers proudly and forcefully emblazon their stamp on an underappreciated style of music most often associated with considerably older African-Americans from little swamp towns in nearby Louisiana. Complete with hefty accordion licks and the deceptively tricky rhythms that characterize the music, the dance-insistent songs on this CD prove that these guys have done their homework.

It’s not easy to “update” a style of music without perverting and polluting it in the process, but these guys have done just that. The result is a great piece of work that will probably be forced to struggle like hell to get airplay anywhere other than public radio and quite possibly some more adventurous college stations. But if their efforts can encourage more young musicians to anchor their grooves in the well-worn grooves of their elders, then that just might force a change.

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