Zachary Richard - Mardi Gras Mambo (1989)
In its early years, Dixiefrog was primarily a label stocked with dudes in hats: cowboys singing about the limitless musical prairies of country and folk, like Jimmy Tittle and Joe Sun. The blues would come next... And then, this pivotal album by Louisiana’s Zachary Richard. A descendant of authentic Cajun lineage (thus also retaining some French ancestry), Richard released a perfect album of local music that spoke to the whole world. He brought the label zydeco - the bayou-born rhythm’n’blues typical of black and rural Louisiana, with its ternary rhythms, grooving pianos, funky accordions, joyous melodies and old-French lyrics sung in a regional accent. Following in the footsteps of Professor Longhair, The Meters and Dr. John, Zachary Richard revived and carried on his tradition, extoling the virtues of carny music, the Creole spirit and the positive side of global warming.
Popa Chubby - Stealing the Devil’s Guitar (2008)
There are two eras in the Professor Longhair story: before and after Popa Chubby. The bearish New York guitarist landed on Dixiefrog in 1997, becoming the label’s most reliable stock. Dixiefrog owes plenty to Popa Chubby, and vice-versa. Browsing through his ample discography, we settled on Stealing the Devil’s Guitar, released in 2008. Up to that point, Popa Chubby had forged a solid reputation as an electric blues-rock singer-guitarist, with a bawdy energy and charisma to burn. But on this album, he unveils the other arrows in his quiver, opening up his sound to soul, African music, acoustic sounds and jazzy cabaret ambience. After all, Popa Chubby is from New York, the city where all the world’s music meets and intersects. And for purists, a cover of electric guitar pioneer Jessie Mae Hemphill’s ‘In this World’ is always a worthwhile find.
Eric Bibb - Booker’s Guitar (2010)
Popa Chubby—the hoodlum that he was—claimed to have stolen the devil’s guitar, but Eric Bibb ended up with Bukka White’s in his hands. Best of all, that story is true. In contrast to that other legendary bluesman, who unleashed the devil by hammering on the steel strings of his National steel guitar, Eric Bibb plays it his way, with a subtle delicacy. The son of folksinger Leon Bibb, he’s one of the most loyal and interesting artists on Dixiefrog: a modern troubadour travelling through space-time according to his inspirations and collaborations. From traditional blues to soul to African music, his palette is immense and his sonic colours always have a gentle quality. For anyone who doubts that Dixiefrog is one big family, we recommend listening to this album by Eric’s daughter Yana Bibb, which leans towards jazz.
Pura Fé - Full Moon Rising (2009)
Let’s give props to Dixiefrog, one of the few labels to recognise the importance of Native Americans in the history of the blues. Many historical blues musicians (both male and female) had native blood. Blacks and natives shared the same fate, as oppressed peoples in a land conquered and ruled by whites—but they also shared the blues. Which brings us to Pura Fé, the great blueswoman from North Carolina, who joined Dixiefrog in 2006 with her excellent Tuscarora Nation Blues. She recorded Full Moon Rising—her best album—with her tribe, but this is no backwards-looking heritage album. You’ll hear acoustic blues, traditional Indian chants and drums, but also hip-hop rhythms and even elements recorded through mobile phone voicemails. Every second of this album is invigorated with emotion and spiritual communication. It’s a great inner journey: soul in its deepest form. The voice of Pura Fé, a sort of shamanic Roberta Flack, will strip your soul raw.
Amar Sundy - Sadaka (2009)
Since the very beginning, Dixiefrog has sought to release ‘world music’ albums as a way of spotlighting blues music cultivated outside the American tradition. If there is one place on the planet where the blues flourished, it’s in the Sahara: in West Africa, among the Tuaregs. Veteran singer-guitarist Amar Sundy was born a Tuareg in the Algerian Sahara, but then became a blues lover and brought the music to France. In the second half of the ’80s, he lived in the U.S. and played with a bunch of legendary bluesmen. Sadaka is surely the culmination of his musical quest. The “bluesman of the desert’s” Tuareg rhythms and vocals characterise his blues, interweaving with accordions and female backing singers. Amar Sundy sings with the sweet swing of a happy man. Diverse production adds to the haunting beauty of the album.