Friday, July 9, 2010

Buckwheat Zydeco: Trouble (1997)

(As published in Offbeat ... )

Buckwheat Zydeco

On first listen, this long-awaited follow-up to 1993's celebrity-studded Five Card Stud seems like an abandonment of the good fight that Stanley Dural, Jr., has been fighting for going on ten years now: the fight to transform zydeco from a commercially negligible roots-music offshoot into a genre every bit as capable of getting the world's attention as reggae and blues if not rock, pop, and country. Without Five Card Stud's big-name cameos (Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, David Hidalgo), big-name producer (Steve Berlin), or royal-flush covers ("Hey Baby," "This Train"), how could Trouble seem like anything but a concession?

But subsequent listens prove that what purists always say about too many cooks is sometimes right. Big names or no big names, Trouble-funk doesn't come any juicier than the hard-to-stop "Hard to Stop" or the hard-chargin' "Hard Chargin'." Throw in the nearly-as-juicy "Heard You Twice the First Time" (a title worthy of mid-'60's Dylan, no?) and the ready-made singalong "Do You Remember the Time" (a que-sera-sera song that unearths the long-buried connection between zydeco and Doris Day), and you have four good reasons for listening.

About the fifth, an accordion-driven version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," Dural's fans will probably argue. Gutsy, yes, but maybe self-defeating, too. The song is, after all, closely associated with guitar players. Besides, Dural sounds positively happy as he proclaims, "I really believe I'm sinking down," or about twice as happy as a singer singing about eternally damning decisions should. Elsewhere, however, Dural's cheer fits right in with the music's, a cheer embodied by one of the brightest and punchiest accordion-rubboard-trumpet-sax concoctions of the year so far.

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