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CLIFTON CHENIER WITH CLARENCE GARLOW

LOUISIANA STOMP (2CD)

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JSP (JSP4212)

At long last! It's about time we saw these two great Louisianan musicians back on the racks.

The first CD contains 25 tracks from the great Clifton Chenier. He was the truly innovative musician who transformed the Black "la-la" version of Cajun music into the more robust, blues based and straight ahead rockin' form that became known as Zydeco. And I love him for it!

Clifton had spent many years learning his craft by studying the styles of black Cajuns like Amede Ardoin, Sidney Babineaux and Bois Sec Ardoin until he decided to rock-out the old time stuff so, instead of playing the accepted diatonic button accordion, he moved on to the huge French piano accordion that compiler Neil Slaven describes as "a Cadillac of an instrument". In Clifton's hands that piano accordion comes across as a custom Peterbilt running on a 350 Cummings engine purring through a 13 speed transmission hauling engine parts across the city limits of Lafayette Louisiana, in the top end of 3rd gear.  Of course, a noise that big needs equally big backing so Chenier initially drafted in drums and electric guitar but eventually included piano, sax and bass and, for that extra kick in the percussion department, his brother Cleveland zipping away on the rub-board.

The first six tracks on this CD were made for Elko, Post and Imperial in 1954 and feature the trio of Chenier, guitarist Big Chenier and drummer Robert Pete and they're all hefty rockers with a thundering backbeat and are as bluesy as hell. Listen to "Country Bred" or "Clifton's Blues" and you'll know what I mean. A year later Clifton signed up with Specialty and a band which included Phillip Walker and Lonesome Sundown on guitar, Wilson Jones on piano and Lionel Provost on saxophone and together they perfected the big fat sound Clifton stayed with for the rest of his career.

The power generated on great numbers like ‘Squeeze Box Boogie', ‘Zodico Stomp', ‘Chenier's Boogie' and ‘Clifton's Dreamin' is fantastic! Every track is a gem but right now, I'm mostly listening to the aptly titled ‘Boppin' The Rock' - a fabulous free-wheelin' blast of rockin' accordion that is the very epitome of marvellously bootin' Zydeco. Play this CD loud - it'll do your heart good!

If you own Chenier's Specialty CD which is currently out of print don't worry too much about duplication as most of the Specialty tracks featured here are alternate takes.

In the 1950's, Clarence Garlow was very popular in Texas and Louisiana, criss-crossing those states incessantly, performing his own exuberant brand of rockin' electric Louisiana blues, New Orleans R&B and faux-Zydeco. Although he had a number of regional hits, he never really made the big time but he did thrill his audiences with his true blues guitar playing and athletic live shows. The young Johnny Winter was one of his greatest fans. When he toured Europe for the first time in the early 1970's, he mentioned in an interview that he never went anywhere without a Clarence Garlow cassette.

His CD contains 23 tracks of the cream of his recording career which consisted of dreamy slow blues like ‘Cry Cry Baby', bootin' R&B workouts like "Come Baby Come' and thundering guitar pieces like ‘Train Came Down The Track' and "Crawfishin'. The hottest for me is the fabulous road song ‘Route 90'. This one's a sizzling trip across the south that is kind of a down home version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" that rocks just as hard and, dare I say it - maybe even harder!

Tacked on at the end of this CD, tracks 24 and 25 are Boozoo Chavis with his first recordings; the blasting instrumental ‘Boozoo Stomp' and one of zydeco's greatest hits ‘Paper In My Shoe'. Worth the price of the set for this track alone, this is a lurching, wheezing piece of delicious mystery that Chavis made with guitarist Classie Ballou in 1954.

Congratulations JSP on another fabulous set - You just nailed it again!

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Review Date: May 2009

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