Bayou Blues compiles a selection of 12 tracks Clifton Chenier cut for Specialty Records in 1955, including the original versions of "Boppin' the Rock," "Eh, Petite Fille," "I'm On My Way" and "Zodico Stomp." It may not be a definitive retrospective, but it's an entertaining and necessary sampler of Chenier at the beginning of his career.
Clifton Chenier was to zydeco what Elvis Presley was to rockabilly, only more so — the genre's founding father and tireless ambassador. Rhino has done an admirable job of collecting the accordionist's important work for this two-disc, 40-track set, harking back to a wonderfully chaotic "Louisiana Stomp" that he waxed in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1954 for J.R. Fullbright's tiny Elko label. Whether you're in the market for one zydeco collection to summarize the entire genre or ready to delve deeply into the legacy of the idiom's pioneer, this is precisely where to begin.
The undisputed "King of Zydeco," Clifton Chenier was the first Creole to be presented a Grammy award on national television. Blending the French and Cajun 2-steps and waltzes of southwest Louisiana with New Orleans R&B, Texas blues, and big-band jazz, Chenier created the modern, dance-inspiring, sounds of zydeco.
Tab Benoit's funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice, has served him well since he burst on the scene in the early '90s. Since Benoit hasn't essentially changed his sound since, this collection of sides made up largely from his early releases for Houston-based Justice Records (all of Benoit's Justice albums have been reissued by Vanguard Records in recent years) makes an ideal introduction to what this guy is all about, and although Best of the Bayou Blues covers a five-year span from 1992 to 1997, the tracks all fall together in a completely coherent sequence. Opening with the Benoit original "Voodoo on the Bayou" from 1992's Nice & Warm and running through several originals and some interesting covers (including country-funk takes on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" and Willie Nelson's "Rainy Day Blues"), this set spotlights Benoit's southern Louisiana take on contemporary blues.
Great Rock'em - Sock'em Zydeco
The zydeco maestro assembled his roadworthy and definitely boogie-as-all-get-out combo in a studio in the Louisiana countryside and cut this entire album in one day, everything completely live except for one accordion overdub. Clifton Chenier was, of course, an undisputed master of zydeco music and listeners looking for a good example of him at his best should be eager to grab this or any of the artist's Arhoolie releases, as his work for this label is consistently top-notch. The good-natured and easy groove the band sets up should be instructive to any musicians interested in learning how to get people to dance. The medium tempo blues numbers such as "Quelque Chose Sur Mon Idee" are really beautiful, while the instrumental "Ride 'Em Cowboy" is simply lots of fun, the honking tenor sax and clickety-clacking rubboard riding high in the saddle