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Creole Soul - Zydeco Lives

A vividly photographed journey through the world of zydeco music


Creole Soul: Zydeco Lives is an exquisitely photographed volume of interviews with contemporary zydeco musicians. Featuring the voices of zydeco’s venerable senior generation and its current agents of change, this book celebrates a musical world full of passion, energy, cowboy hats and boots, banging bass, horse trailers, joy, and dazzling dance moves. Author Burt Feintuch captures an important American music in the process of significant—and sometimes controversial—change.

Creole Soul draws us into conversations with zydeco musicians from Texas and Louisiana, most of them bandleaders, including Ed Poullard, Lawrence “Black” Ardoin, Step Rideau, Brian Jack, Jerome Batiste, Ruben Moreno, Nathan Williams Jr., Leroy Thomas, Corey Ledet, Sean Ardoin, and Dwayne Dopsie. Some of the interviewees represent the contemporary scene and are among today’s most popular performers along the Creole Corridor. Others are rooted in older French music forms and are especially well qualified to talk about zydeco’s origins.

The musicians speak freely, whether discussing the death of a famed musician or describing a memorable performance, such as when Boozoo Chavis played the accordion while dripping blood on stage shortly after a freak barbeque-building accident that sliced off parts of two of his fingers. They address the influence of rap on today’s zydeco music and discuss how to pass music along to a younger generation—and how not to. They weigh the merits of the old-time zydeco clubs versus today’s casinos and African American trailrides, which come complete with horses and the loudest zydeco bands you can imagine. In Creole Soul, zydeco musicians give an unprecedented look into their lives, their music, and their culture.


"Among the rarest things on earth is a book about great music that looks as great, and true, as that music sounds. Creole Soul is that rare book. As captured by Burt Feintuch, Jeannie Banks Thomas, and Gary Samson, the music makers’ words and players’ images silently project the living sounds that shaped them. Images of trailriders dancing in the dust and big-city clubs filled wall to wall with party, homages to founding spirits Amédé Ardoin and Clifton Chenier side by side with shout-outs from ten-year-old drummers and radio DJs. Because zydeco goes everywhere that Creole culture goes, this book is truly the story of 'Creole soul,' tracing the paths of families and communities swept up in a music that is always in motion: an urban music shaped by farm-raised folks, with the power to transform the city into a suburb of the country."

- Carl Lindahl, professor at University of Houston, editor of American Folktales from the Library of Congress, and coeditor of Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita and Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana

"Creole Soul is a welcome addition to the repertoire of studies on the Gulf Coast's rich Creole culture and zydeco music. Through the interviews Feintuch conducted with various Texas and Louisiana zydeco musicians, readers will enjoy an intimate glimpse into the lives and careers of these talented artists. Complemented with a plethora of beautiful photos that capture the heart and soul of the zydeco music scene, Creole Soul enables readers to feel as though they're there with the music pulsating through their bodies and the sweat rolling down their faces as boots, jeans, accordions, and rubboards blend together in perfect rhythmic harmony."

- Elista Istre, founder and director of Belle Heritage

"For the photographs alone, this book would make a great addition to any music lover’s bookshelf."


"To knowledgeably write about any cultural music, one has to experience it in its cradle since it’s practically impossible to do so from afar. That Feintuch did. . . . Samson’s stunning 58-color photographs of the subjects, spectators, trailrides, performances, and action-packed dancing are a huge part of this book and its take-you-there appeal."

- Dan Willging, Offbeat

"Musician and writer Burt Feintuch, along with fellow folklore expert Jeannie Banks Thomas, capture the Creole zydeco scene through the musicians’ own words and stories, both on stage and off, highlighted by extraordinary photography by Gary Samson. Creole Soul: Zydeco Lives puts readers right in the middle of this riotous, energetic, colorful world, and is a must-have for music fans as well as cultural history buffs."

- Ashley McLellan, Louisiana Life Magazine

"All told, this beautiful package contains a wealth of knowledge on the world of zydeco. . . . The book is indeed brimming with ‘Creole Soul,” and makes it abundantly clear that Zydeco music has carved out a niche that will carry on the traditions for future generations. Highly recommended to all music fans!"

- Mark Thompson, Blues Blast

"Gary Samson’s photos are colorful and full of the energy, celebration, and life that is such a big part of the Creole zydeco community. Creole Soul is a fitting tribute to a distinctive Gulf South regional tradition."

- David Kunian, New Orleans Jazz Museum, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"The book represents extensive work that the author and editor have put into bringing this culture to a wider audience, both popular and academic."

- Jim Hobbs, ARSC Journal