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Family Tree: T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers at the Catonsville Knights of Columbus, May 15

May 17, 2010

Zydeco music is a family business in Louisiana. T-Broussard is no exception, but he’s not part of the family you’d expect. He has no known blood relation to the Jeffery Broussard, who appeared at the Catonsville Knights of Columbus in January, nor to Jeffery’s famous father Delton and famous uncle Fernest Arceneaux. That family is based in Opelousas, near the Atchafalaya swamps, and favors the song-based zydeco of Clifton Chenier and Nathan Williams.

T-Broussard’s family, by contrast, is based a good deal west in Jennings and Lake Charles, near the Calcasieu swamps, where the zydeco tends to be more rhythmic in the style of Boozoo Chavis, Preston Frank, and Bois Sec Ardoin. The latter two men, as it happens, were both uncles of T-Broussard’s mother, making her son a cousin of Keith Frank and Chris Ardoin. So when T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers played last Saturday’s dance at the Knights of Columbus, they brought that stomping Lake Charles sound with them.

T-Broussard, a short, wiry young man, was wearing a red-striped shirt, blue jeans, and a wispy goatee as he pumped out simple, two-step riffs on his single-row button accordion. Confronted by a room of older dancers, he avoided the more disco-flavored cuts from his latest album, Super T, and stuck to his more traditional material. This was a wise decision, for like his cousin Keith Frank, T-Broussard sounds like an imitator when he follows national R&B trends and an original only when he sticks to Louisiana’s indigenous zydeco.

But when he sang a bluesy two step such as “Lonely Woman” or a Creole waltz such as “How Am I Going To Make It,” his handsome tenor made the songs more than mere dance fodder. After intermission, he switched to his red, white, and green triple-row accordion, which allowed him to play pretty embellishments on songs such as “Talk to Me, Good Whiskey.” Here was evidence that he was carrying on not just the family business but also the family tradition.

He displayed an awareness of the wider zydeco heritage when he saluted legend Roy Carrier, who died May 4. T-Broussard brought out all the gospel undertones of “I’m Coming Home,” Clifton Chenier’s zydeco rewrite of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home.” Carrier probably played more East Coast zydeco dances than any other bandleader, and more than one dancer was visibly moved by the tribute.

The next zydeco dance at the Catonsville Knights of Columbus features Louisiana’s Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Roadrunners Aug. 21.

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