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CD Review -- Buckwheat Zydeco

BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO

Lay Your Burden Down

Alligator ALCD 4929

 Buckwheat Zydeco CD art

By Tim Holek

 

Multi-Grammy nominee Buckwheat Zydeco is celebrating his thirtieth anniversary as a solo artist with this new CD and a lengthy tour. Stanley Dural was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947. The nickname came about as a result because, with his braided hair, he looked like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer says, “Buckwheat Zydeco is the iconic figure of Louisiana zydeco music worldwide. It’s a thrill to bring an artist of this stature to Alligator. I’m also excited to reunite Buckwheat with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos as producer. Berlin produced Five Card Stud, [which was] one of Buckwheat’s finest albums.” The artist has not recorded for a well-regarded label since his late ’80s/early ’90s days with Island Records. Alligator hasn’t taken a chance with zydeco music since C.J. Chenier’s 2001 release Step It Up!

 

     Surprisingly, this CD is not a zydeco dance party. Lay Your Burden Down is more rootsy than any of Buckwheat’s most recent releases. Like many of his past CDs, there are a fair amount of cover songs. The beats and rhythms of the 11 songs, including five new originals, are catchy and memorable. The music begins like race horses stampeding from the starting gate with Memphis Minnie’s When The Levee Breaks. It’s a roots-rockin’, ass-kickin’ version that contains a different arrangement from the Led Zeppelin hit from the ’70s. The song is about the Mississippi River flood of 1927, but is still fitting given the recent hurricanes that have devastated Louisiana. Here, Buckwheat lays off the accordion in favour of the organ, which was his first instrument.  Meanwhile, the melodic and harmonious slide guitar of guest Sonny Landreth casts off anything that resembles a burden. The lovely Bruce Springsteen ballad Back In Your Arms contains a reggae beat and a sound that’s pretty and heartfelt thanks to Buckwheat’s masterful accordion skills. Warren Haynes injects southern rock slide guitar into the title track, which is based on a gospel melody and was originally recorded by his band Gov’t Mule. Captain Beefheart’s Too Much Time features a prominent bass line, which is combined with R&B style backing vocals and rap-like lead vocals.            

 

     Buckwheat takes us to the Mardi Gras with the appropriately titled Throw Me Something, Mister. Like the upbeat zydeco songs from his past CDs, you simply can’t sit still -- something in your subconscious forces you to get up and dance! Elements of zydeco music – a rubboard, an accordion – flourish on the relaxed The Wrong Side, which was written by JJ Grey. He contributes piano on the song whose lyrics reflect Buckwheat’s pensive side. The funky and danceable Let Your Yeah Be Yeah, by Jimmy Cliff, is simple and sweet. Here the three-piece horn section, lead by Berlin on sax, blasts out at the most ideal times and bops the song into a dance-a-thon. Throughout, Trombone Shorty proves why he is a New Orleans brass sensation.        

 

     On his Alligator debut, Buckwheat Zydeco mixes many genres, riffs, and arrangements into what many will think is a new musical direction for him. Never a traditional zydeco fan growing up, this album is more reminiscent of his work with his 16-piece ’70s funk band, Buckwheat And The Hitchhikers. Musically, the album is richer and deeper than his most recent releases. Lyrically, a burning sense and determination to overcome whatever is thrown his way is revealed. His pleasant voice isn’t always up front and centre in the mix. At times it’s hard to interpret his meaningful words. If you were expecting the usual dance-your-ass-off disc, you may be disappointed. If you prefer a wide variety of music, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this daring disc. 

 

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