182

Clifton Chenier: Sings the Blues

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Clifton Chenier: Sings the Blues Everyone has a list of those unsung musicians who strike a special chord. Names unknown to the public at large whose contributions go almost completely unrecognized or are overshadowed by others in their immediate orbit. Near the top of my own list sits Cleveland Chenier. Like the lots handed Nat Adderley and Tommy Turrentine, Cleveland almost always found himself eclipsed by brother Clifton, the King of Zydeco. This despite his being an integral agent in many of his sibling’s numerous bands.



This recent release in Arhoolie’s mid-price series is unlikely to rectify the ongoing slight, but rest assured Cleveland’s customary standard of rhythmic excellence on the rubboard is maintained on the twelve collected cuts. The hypnotic scrapes of his thimble hooks on the corrugated surface of his signature metal vest thread through his brother’s more prominent accordion swirls and together they conjure the sound that has come to define a genre.

These particular tunes are culled from a cache of LPs originally circulated on the Prophesy and Home Cooking labels. Financed by Roy C. Ames in Houston, Texas in the spring 1969, they have a gregarious live feel that were the Chenier brothers regular stock in trade. Rounding out the band in this incarnation are somewhat plodding traps of Robert St. Julian, the frets of Cleveland Keyes and the probable bass of one Joe Morris (no, not that Joe Morris). Oddly enough, all of the material along with additional seven cuts was previously available on CD under the same title, but this earlier incarnation apparently has been deleted.



The usual clutch of blues standards blends with a handful more obscure selections to create what was most likely akin to a typical set by the group circa the late '60s. Chenier was a master of varying mood and ambience with his vocal delivery. From the languorous drawl that characterizes “Ain’t No Need of Cryin’” and “Brown Skinned Woman” to the up-tempo hollers of “Me and My Chauffer Blues” (a not so subtle reworking of “Good Morning Little School Girl”) and “Rosemary,” the band plays as if it's working a regular Saturday night crowd. Favorites to my ears include the sparse instrumental rundown of “Done Got Over,” with Cleveland’s finger thimbles front and center in a cool stereo pan, and low down slow blues of “My Little Angel” that contains some of Clifton’s most cerulean trills and most soulful singing.



Arhoolie has something in common with ECM in that they seem intensely loyal to their roster of artists. Case in point: nearly all Clifton’s entire recorded catalog rests in label honcho Chris Strachwitz’s capable and custodial hands. There’s so much available that releases like this one are both a surprise and a boon. Any fan of Zydeco who has not encountered the earlier expanded disc (and perhaps more importantly those unfamiliar with the idiom) will likely find this a worthwhile experience.


Track Listing: Ain

Personnel: Clifton Chenier

Title: Sings the Blues | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Arhoolie Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read I Believe In You CD/LP/Track Review I Believe In You
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Morning Sun CD/LP/Track Review Morning Sun
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 18, 2017
Read The Conscience CD/LP/Track Review The Conscience
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Harlem CD/LP/Track Review Harlem
by James Nadal
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Open Book CD/LP/Track Review Open Book
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Stolen Moments CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Drama" CD/LP/Track Review Drama
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Caipi" CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Jambú" CD/LP/Track Review Jambú
by Joe Gatto
Published: February 13, 2017
Read "Little Steps" CD/LP/Track Review Little Steps
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "Das Wohltemperierte Akkordeon" CD/LP/Track Review Das Wohltemperierte Akkordeon
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 12, 2017
Read "Stephan Crump's Rhombal" CD/LP/Track Review Stephan Crump's Rhombal
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.