Buckwheat Zydeco

Tomorrow Recordings, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's freezing here in Chicago. We were hit with our second-worst snowfall ever last week, and as I look out the window (at least what I can still see through), another couple of inches of the cold white stuff is falling. I can only wear so many sweaters before I get tired of them, and my prized sweatshirt from "The Score" is in need of a serious washing. (Thanks, Susan D. - I haven't forgotten.) I'm down to my last packet of Swiss Miss, and I need something to seriously warm me up.

Thank you, Buckwheat Zydeco, for being in the right place at the right time. Stanley Dural, Jr. and company have been playing this spicy Southern music for years, and their latest release Trouble is just the thing needed to warm the blood at this time of year. While zydeco is an acquired taste, after a few listens to this disc, you'll discover there's a party going on every time you pop this disc into the stereo.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Zydeco could be described in a sense as a Louisiana version of the blues - namely, it's a very emotionally charged form of music that has a certain rhythmic pattern to it (though I'd stop at comparing it to the 12-bar pattern best known in the blues). But while the blues can bring out both the strongest highs and deepest lows in a person, the prime aim of zydeco is to celebrate life, something Dural and company do extraordinarily well.

The opening track, "Put It In The Pocket," exemplifies this upbeat feeling; you can almost see Dural on the accordion and Hammond attacking the music with gusto. (All the other members of Buckwheat Zydeco also put a lot of feeling into their performances, and while I won't go into a "grocery list" of the other musicians, they all deserve pats on the back.) The only complaint I have with this particular track is I wish there had been more lyrical development; the same basic phrase is repeated throughout the song.

However, Dural and crew prove that Trouble is not the ideal title for this disc as they plow through the remaining nine songs almost effortlessly, as if you had walked in on a shrimp bake in the middle of the party. From the French-tinged "Allons A Boucherie" to the all-out rollicking numbers like "Trouble" and "Hard To Stop," Buckwheat Zydeco successfully show that zydeco is a genre of music whose potential has yet to be tapped. (Paul Simon tried to bring attention to it via a cut on Graceland.)

Even to the point where Robert Johnson's blues classic "Crossroads" is covered, Dural and company make a strong case for zydeco to gain wider commercial attention. And for an album that almost never saw the light of day due to problems with his former label, I'd say the case is almost air-tight in favor of Buckwheat Zydeco.

But this is a form of music that you have to spend some time with in order to appreciate fully, and I wonder if many listeners would have the kind of time required to dedicate towards Trouble. Sure, you can enjoy the album on a more simplistic level after only one listen - but I guess that would be like eating only one shrimp at the party when there's plenty more to enjoy.

Trouble is the strongest argument yet that Buckwheat Zydeco have made to become the leaders in their musical field. Here's hoping that they gain a wider audience with this one - and that some people will be willing to take a chance on this mini-party.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tomorrow Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.