[20 March 2006]
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr., is an innovator of the highest order. In the ‘80s, he took zydeco music on his back and dragged it into the new age. This was his second record as a bandleader, and some still think it’s his best. (I’m not sure I agree, as I’m partial to 1992’s underrated On Track as well as last year’s awesome Jackpot!, but we’re talking about a wealth of riches here.) It was certainly the first record where he revealed that he had big fat ambition for this Louisiana-based folk music.
On this album, he and his crack Ils Sont Partis Band burn through 10 excellent tracks. Some tunes are straight-up zydeco; originals like “Somebody Stole My Slide” stand up very nicely next to classics like the version of “Jolie Blonde” (called the “Cajun National Anthem”) here called “Buck’s Nouvelle Jole Blon”. All the signifiers are here: Dural’s hot accordion and organ playing, Elijah Cudges’ work on the rubboard, Selwyn Cooper’s snaky guitar lines, the whole thing. It’s beautiful.
But the really interesting stuff is found in the hybrids. Dural shows his intention to mix zydeco with other types of music. This is easy enough to do with blues songs like “Is There Something You?” or New Orleans rhythm and blues pieces such as “I Need Your Lovin’”. But was anyone expecting that the old Mungo Jerry song “In the Summertime” would sound so spooky-wonderful in a cajun stylee? Or that Benny Lattimore’s gospel-rooted soul number “Take Me to the Mountain Top” could be turned into a seven-minute celebration of all that ecstatic in music?
By the time things wind up with Roy Brown’s “I’m Ready to Play” (done like an early harbinger of the swing revival), you know you’re in the presence of someone who’s going to bust down some doors. Which Dural has done ever since. (I’m not kidding—I once saw him do his epic version of “Hey Joe”, in which he turned his accordion into a heavy metal guitar and cleared all the old folks out of the room.) But it’s more than just an early notice that Buckwheat had ambition and chops; it’s also a very rockin’ little record, and I love Shout! Factory all over again for reissuing it.