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C.J. Chenier
Can’t Sit Down
World Village (

Zydeco music is another American style that belongs in the broadening “world” music category. It sounds as though C.J. Chenier - the son of late pioneering zydeco icon Clifton Chenier - is looking to back up that contention as well. His latest album covers songs by artists you wouldn’t expect to hear in zydeco mode (Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker, Curtis Mayfield) and takes the music to new levels by way of soul, funk and blues elements in the mix. But this is a zydeco album, and it’s as lively as a zydeco album “recorded in one kick-butt session” (to quote the liner notes) ought to be.

The opening title track, penned by Chenier Sr. and a standard of his repertoire, leaps out and comes across as the most typical zydeco track of the bunch with sassy accordion, relentless beat and amped Francophone inflections intact. It’s not long, though, before you discover how much more C.J. has in store. Waits’ composition “Clap Hands” starts with an entirely unexpected kalimba intro before slipping into a kind of Afro-blues punctuated by Chenier on flute (one of several instruments he plays in addition to accordion). “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Red Shack Zydeco” and “Hot Tamale Baby” get as much of their fire from guitar solos as squeezebox, while “Trouble in Mind” and Hooker’s “Dusty Road” give you an idea of what the blues would have sounded like if Clarksdale had been located in Louisiana rather than Mississippi. And if you’re not up and moving by then, the forward motion of “Zydeco Boogie” should do the trick. Lastly, there’s Curtis Mayfield’s “We Gotta Have Peace,” managing to be both poignant and party ready. It’s a fine ending to a disc that’s nothing short of a modern zydeco classic. - Tom Orr

CD available from cdRoots

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"Clap Hands"


CD available from cdRoots

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