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Buckwheat Zydeco: Lay Your Burden Down

Chris M. Slawecki By

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2009 marks Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural's thirtieth anniversary in the business and his debut for Chicago's homegrown blues-roots label Alligator Records. Buckwheat expresses his own voice on this debut mostly through songs written by many different composers, from Memphis Minnie through Captain Beefheart to Bruce Springsteen and others. He also reunites with producer Steve Berlin, who produced Dural's acclaimed Five Card Stud (Island, 1994) and plays in and leads Burden's horn section.

Sonny Landreth laces the opening "When the Levee Breaks" with nuclear-hot blues slide guitar while Buckwheat and his band stomp out primal, raw bayou blues and funk—nasty and churning, cold and deep like a delta flood—and then doubles the tempo into a raging Cajun-blues two-step to close. Landreth also teams with guitarist /vocalist JJ Grey to turbo-charge "The Wrong Side," a backwater blues lent from the JJ Grey & Mofro songbook. Similarly, Warren Haynes's guitar and vocal brilliantly shine on his own tune, the slow-rolling yet spacey Gov't Mule blues workout "Lay Your Burden Down" for which this set is named.

Buckwheat allows the warm reggae rays of Jimmy Cliff's "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah" to also wash over Bruce Springsteen's "Back in Your Arms," so that reggae's natural rhythmic bounce seems to brighten even the Boss's most miserably bleak romantic ruminations, such as, "All is shadow and darkness." Seriously.

Buckwheat also puts his unique Zydeco twist on "Too Much Time," one of the least twisted forays into R&B by Delta blues expert Captain Beefheart, and then ties up his Burden with the instrumental original "Finding My Way Back Home" that somehow sounds familiar, warm, and comfortable—just like home.

There's a sound that pops off in peoples' minds when thinking of Cajun or Zydeco music: A rollicking, up-tempo Mardi Gras jam that crams twice the funk into a straight-up 4/4 rocking beat, a party where whooping and hollering and loud carrying on are greatly encouraged. This sound crackles like lightning from Dural's original "Throw Me Something, Mister," a torrid band throw-down and jam. It does seem curious that this loose-limbed, wordless jam session and the closing instrumental feel like the highpoints of an album for which so many cover versions were so obviously carefully considered.

Track Listing: When the Levee Breaks; The Wrong Side; Let Your Yeah Be Yeah; Don't Leave Me; Back in Your Arms; Throw Me Something, Mister; Lay Your Burden Down; Time Goes By; Ninth Place; Too Much Time; Finding My Way Back Home.

Personnel: Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural, Jr.: accordion, Hammond B-3, synthesizer, lead and background vocals; Lee Allen Zeno: bass, background vocals; Sir Reginald Master Dural: rubboard, background vocals; Kevin Menard: drums; Olivier Scoazec: guitar; Michael Melchione: guitar; Curtis Watson: trumpet; Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews: trombone; Steve Berlin: baritone sax; JJ Grey: background vocals, Wurlitzer piano; Warren Haynes: guitar; Sonny Landreth: guitar.

Title: Lay Your Burden Down | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Alligator Records

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