Unleashing their new album “3 Steps from La La,” Ernest James Zydeco brings fresh power to Kansas City’s diverse music scene.
With a mix of traditional and no-so-traditional zydeco songs, Ernest James Zydeco has put their own stamp on the long standing tradition of zydeco. The band’s new album “3 Steps from La La” features original music that keeps things fresh at every turn. With lyrics full of meaning and melodies that stay with you, the band weaves its way through a collection of 11 songs that could best be summed up as a uniquely Midwestern take on the art form. The EJZ band crosses boundaries with their trademark modern spin on zydeco: fans of jazz and the blues will respond to the complexity of sound and musicality, and the band’s energy and depth speaks to fans of folk and rock.
Already recognized in the roots music world, Joel Savoy, owner and producer of Valcour Records (Eunice, Louisiana) said: “I really dig their sound. I love that they’ve created such an original sound out of Zydeco.” Bruce Iglauer, founder and owner of Alligator Records, (Chicago, IL) praised it as well: “I really enjoyed the disc. The playing is strong, the ensemble is tight, and the energy level is good.” Although “3 Steps from La La” is self produced, the band has been honored by Valcour Records as “Artist of the Month” for their work.
This album features a new approach to the task of songwriting: Ernest James and Jaisson Taylor co wrote and co produced the songs. As a result the band has evolved beyond their traditional zydeco foundation, although to be sure, several new songs can only be described as all-out zydeco parties. The use of instrumentation on this album reveals remarkable range, including beautiful work on the steel guitar by Mike Stover, African talking drum by Jaisson Taylor, and virtuoso fiddling by Betse Ellis. The album includes tracks such as Red Cross People, which is a wry and timely social commentary taking the form of a relaxed swamp/gospel groove, as well as Man Across the Street – a haunting and sparse ballad contrasting sharply with traditional yet fresh new zydeco tracks such as Shake it Sugaree.
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, the band lineup has been constant since 2008: Ernest James on accordion and vocals, Barry Barnes rubs the washboard, Jaisson Taylor mans the drums, Mike Stover holds down the bass guitar, and Tony LaCroix plays the guitar. This album also includes 4 special songs that feature one of the area’s finest fiddlers: Kansas City’s own Betse Ellis (previously of The Wilders).
“I wanted to make an impact with this recording” says lead vocalist and accordionist Ernest James. “I wanted the band to explore not only the modern Zydeco context, but also some of the pre zydeco era – including the early creole zydeco called ‘la la music.’ La la had old-style fiddle and accordion I thought we could make relevant. I was talking with Mike Stover about my idea, and right away he suggested Betse [Ellis, previously of The Wilders]. I called her up and we ended up talking for a long time. She knew this whole different side, more of the South-Louisiana Cajun style. We went to the studio to cut the 4 songs she’s on, and Betse showed up big time. She bit the head off the chicken. Just totally nailed it. It was scary. When I was standing there in the control room listening to her play, I got chicken pimples on my arms. I love this recording!”
This album was recorded and mixed in Kansas City at Markosa Studios, with the expertise of Mark Thies. His creative and lighthearted approach was invaluable. “We laid down the basic tracks by playing live, in the studio, all together” explains Ernest James, “That’s what created the vibrancy and rhythmic interplay. Mark did a terrific job capturing that, and accentuating that.” The album was mastered by Collin Jordan at The Boiler Room in Chicago.
Stay tuned to more fun with Ernest James and his gang “We’re looking forward to Mardi Gras madness in February!”
You can learn more about the band at www.EJZydeco.com
Buy the CD “3 Steps from La La” at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ErnestJamesZydeco