Signing: Todd Mouton’s Way Down in Louisiana_lowres


There is a scrapbook feel to Todd Mouton's Way Down in Louisiana (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press). Some of that comes from its mix of photography, including old black-and-white and faded color photos, and design that incorporates show posters and ticket stubs. But it's also got a comfortable tone and the familiarity of a writer who lives in Lafayette and has followed and promoted music and folk culture for a long time. Mouton is the director of Louisiana Folk Roots.   A third of the book is devoted to accordionist Clifton Chenier (1925-1987), who was instrumental in the founding of zydeco — fusing Acadian Creole music, blues, R&B and more. His recordings appeared under a host of genre labels in the 1950s and '60s, and some were used in record titles such as "boogie" and "Cajun blues," before the term zydeco was finally embraced. Mouton tracks Chenier's career in a lively way, without the hindsight that his early sound was the beginning of a grand and inevitable plan. The book details the relationships among Acadian musicians of all stripes, and follows them to more clearly defined zydeco, Cajun and swamp pop bands.   There are sections on Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural and guitarists Sonny Landreth and Lil Buck Sinegal, all of whom spent time in Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band. Other chapters are devoted to Cajun musicians Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil and Steve Riley. There's also a section on the cross-genre supergroup Lil' Band O' Gold. Many of the chapters are reprinted magazine-style pieces written in the 1990s, with additional postscripts including musical playlists.   The biography of Chenier is detailed and substantial, and many of the other parts are more of-the-moment. It's much more than an introduction to the music of Acadiana, and it shows how much more there is to explore, all in an entertaining and approachable format.