hosted terrific zydeco and Cajun dances at the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus, but when the school decided over the summer of 2008 to stop renting buildings to outside groups, the series was left homeless. After a brief, unsuccessful stint at the Fishhead Cantina, the dances found a new home at the Catonsville's Knights of Columbus Hall last year.
And on Saturday night,
demonstrated the value of the series by bringing top-notch Louisiana swamp music to a crowded room of sweaty, happy dancers. The room is an old-fashioned social hall with acoustic-tile ceilings and tan linoleum floors, but became a resounding echo chamber as the quintet cranked it up.
The "Creole" in the band's name is important, for it meant the group delivered more waltzes, more French lyrics, and more give-and-take in the arrangements than most of the modern, funk-oriented zydeco bands. This gave the music an infectious rhythm that was more rubbery syncopation than predictable stomp. The leader even switched from button accordion to fiddle for the final four numbers.
As the son of Delton Broussard and the nephew of Fernest Arceneaux, Jeffery Broussard grew up around some the best traditional zydeco in Louisiana. Still based in Opelousas, Louisiana, he wore a white-straw cowboy hat, a silver-plated rodeo belt and black cowboy boots in Catonsville. He never removed his trademark toothpick from his mouth even as he sang in his raspy, bluesy tenor and played his single-row and triple-row accordions with fluttering triplets and melodic detours.
He sang several numbers from 2007's
Keeping the Tradition Alive,
his debut solo album after he left the Zydeco Force. Even more impressive were the tunes he previewed from his forthcoming second album, for he is coming into his own as a tuneful songwriter.
As impressive as the bandleader was, however, the real treat of the evening was the chance to hear bassist and backing singer Classie Ballou, one of the true legends of Louisiana music. Ballou played on Boozoo Chavis's 1954 single, "Paper in My Shoe," the first-ever zydeco hit, and made his percolating bass lines felt on many more records and/or tours by Chavis, Rosco Gordon, Big Joe Turner, and Ballou's own band, the Tempo Kings.
The next zydeco dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall features Louisiana's Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble on Feb. 19.