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East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

C.J. Chenier - The Desperate Kingdom of LoveC.J. Chenier - The Desperate Kingdom of Love
{World Village – 2006}

C.J. Chenier is one of the most talented purveyors of zydeco blues today (yes, zydeco music has deep roots in the blues.) He’s also the son of the one-and-only King of Zydeco Clifton Chenier. C.J. used to play saxophone in his Dad’s bands, but picked up the accordion along the way. He’s used that as his primary instrument in his own band after he took over the Red Hot Louisiana Band from his Dad. C.J. is one of the best songwriters in the genre, and his songs are by no means all about hot sauce and crawfish. He’s a top-flight song writer, player and singer. In fact, C.J. possesses a deep, soulful voice that he uses to great effect in his music. It’s been a long time since his band has played the St. Louis area. If you get a chance to catch them live don’t miss it.

The Songs:

1) Desperate Kingdom of Lovewritten by alt rocker P.J. Harvey.
That said, C.J. takes the song and makes it his own, highlighting just how soulful a vocalist he can be. A melancholy start to the album for sure, but as this cd was recorded in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the making of it was a bit of a cathartic act for C.J.

2) Black Snake Bluesthis tune was written by C.J.’s father, the great Clifton Chenier.
Don’t let anyone fool you; Clifton was a blues man, whose choice of instrument just happened to be accordion. C.J. is very much his father’s son, and this tune is nice deep blues, with the accordion playing the parts one typically hears played by organ or harp players. C.J. usually covers at least one of his Dad’s tunes on each of his own cds (he covers several on this cd, which is understandable if you link the feelings of loss and despair caused by the Hurricanes to the feeling of loss and despair at the loss of a loved one, in this case his father.)

3) I’ve Been Good To You – this is one of C.J.’s own tunes co-written with Denise Labrie (C.J.’s wife).
It’s a nice mid-tempo zydeco track.

4) Learning To Live – this is another of C.J.’s & Denise’s tunes.
This tune has a nice R&B feel to it, with a laid-back funky little groove going on. I like this one a lot. I think you will, too.

5) Rosemary a song by Clifton Chenier.
This is definitely a zydeco-infused blues tune. There’s no mistaking the blues roots of this one, as it’s very similar in structure to “Crow Jane”, but it’s juiced up with the zydeco influences here. Tasty - I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like dancin’!

6) Lost on the River – Here’s C.J.’s take on a Hank Williams song.
C.J.’s voice is perfect for this slow tune about a man’s longing for his lost love. The organ breaks in the song make it sound like something that could have come out of Muscle Shoals back in the day.

7) Who’s Cheatin’ Who? – Another tune by C.J. & Denise.
This is a nice little zydeco-country-rockin’-blues tune. Think Chuck Berry with accordions – really! If your feet aren’t tapping to this one then you’ve got no soul; not even a little bit!

8) Ain’t No Need In Cryin’
another tune written by Clifton Chenier.
This is a traditional zydeco-style song from back in the day, and it’s sung in a combination of Creole French and English here. It may be based on an older style, but the guitar break is dirty, greasy (gris-gris?) and full of swampy feeling. Very nice.

9) Finger Lickin’ Chicken – co-written by C.J., Gerard Chenier and Chris Colbourn.
This is a shuffling zydeco tune about how tasty C.J. thinks his special lady is. She must be mighty fine indeed…

10) Bogalusa Boogie –
an instrumental take on a Clifton Chenier song, dedicated on this cd to the memory of the great Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. C.J.’s fingers are tearing up his accordion here. Shoot, maybe the Guitar Hero game that’s so popular right now will add an accordion to its line-up of instruments!? Anywho, there’s very nice solo space here for guitar and piano, also.

11) Comfort You – written by Van Morrison (yep, C.J. is covering Van Morrison – I tried to tell you that he’s not your typical “good-timey” zydeco artist.) This tunes closes the cd in fine fashion, bringing the feel back around to the themes of loss, redemption and renewed life, experienced by so many people living in the Gulf Coast who were affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. In fact, they’re still being affected to this day. Let’s not forget that, and let’s not let our government entities (Federal, State & Local) forget that either.

The Verdict:
I’m biased on this one, because C.J. Chenier happens to be one of my favorite zydeco-based artists (along with Lynn August – check him out!) I like this cd a lot, mainly because of the excellent songs and the burnished, soulful voice C.J. possesses. If you don’t have any of C.J.’s albums in your collection, this is a great place to start. This album was one of my favorite releases of 2006, and hopefully you will enjoy it as well. I’ll give it a 4.0 on the Blue-O-Meter scale.

Lee 'East Side Slim' Howland
The STLBluesometer

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