Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chubby Carrier finds the funk in zydeco

By Donald Frazier

He may hail from way out in Cajun country, but Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band delivered a rousing and festive set of zydeco-based party music last night just as proficient and sophisticated as any of the citified New Orleans performers we’ve heard here over the last few days.

From its first moments, this set was intended as a party, with an intro medley of Mardi Gras classics and costumed performers tossing beads to the audience in a well-practiced, crowd-pleasing bit of showmanship.

As for the music, this is strictly zydeco lite. No earthy, bluesy shouts or growls; none of the raw edges of a Beau Jacques or a Keith Frank. Every phase, every melodic line was as sharp and vibrant as last week’s pop hit.

And Carrier’s selection of material presented a retrospective of zydeco, showing how it evolved from backwoods juke joints such as El Sido’s to become one more element of the eclectic New Orleans mainstream.

Consider the progression between two songs. An old Boozo Chavis favorite, "Don’t You Mess with My Choo-Choo," hammered down a simple, emphatic two-step with the catchy staggered fourth beat that makes zydeco so danceable. A few songs later we were in Funk Nation, with the jagged basslines of the War classic, "The Cisco Kid." Half a century of music in 15 minutes.

But his infectious, good-natured performance made sure everybody had a good time in ‘the Chubby party.” At times he almost hectored the audience where their energy flagged: “git up and dance, y’all!” The got up, they complied, and they boogied.

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