Zydeco's Reigning King:
Boozoo - That's Who

Boozoo Chavis - Who Stole My Monkey?
(Rounder Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

In the swamp infested backwoods of Louisiana there's been a fierce battle raging throughout the last forty-odd years for one of Cajun country's most prized possessions - the crown to the kingdom of zydeco.
Zydeco, a highly spirited music that is filled with old-school country two-steps, blues riffs, waltz rhythms and Cajun / French patois, all highly seasoned with an infectious accordion, started spilling out of Louisiana's swamp-lands in the late forties and early fifties.
This music was lead by two of it's creators, the late-Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis, both of who claim to have single-handedly creating it. In 1955 both Chenier and Chavis released some of the earliest known zydeco recordings - Chenier with "Ay-Tete-Fee" and Chavis with "Paper In My Shoe". Although they were only 5 years apart in age and grew up only thirty miles from one another, their styles of music rapidly grew apart. Chenier headed for Texas and became influenced by the more polished urban blues he heard in Houston, while Chavis stayed back at his horse-farm, filling local dance halls with his rougher style of zydeco.
With Chenier extensively touring throughout the country in the sixties and seventies he soon became known as the king of zydeco, a moniker which he helped promote as he often wore a king's crown at his concerts. Chavis, however, became disenchanted with the record business and withdrew from the music scene altogether, and instead put all his efforts into training his thoroughbred racehorses.
Chenier's ill-health dramatically slowed down his touring in the early eighties and he finally succumbed in 1987. Two years prior to the king's death Chavis felt the time was right to launch a comeback and reclaim zydeco's crown, one that he felt belonged to him all along anyway.
The comeback proved fruitful as Chavis' raw style of zydeco began influencing a new legion of younger musicians throughout Louisiana, most notably hot-shot Beau Jocque, who is currently positioning himself as the future heir to zydeco's throne with his own brand of fierce, red-hot music.
Now on his latest release, Who Stole My Monkey?, Boozoo shows why the Cajun crown now belongs to him exclusively, even if he doesn't cheekily don it as Chenier once did.
Chavis' lively accordion and raw, bouncy vocals, often sung in French-Cajun, make it hard to sit still. Songs such as the high-energy "I Went To The Dance", "Oh Yeah" and the spicy "Ah, Cayenne" conjures up images of packed, backwoods Cajun dance halls bursting at the seams with energy. He puts his own signature on two blues standards, Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bottle Up and Go" and a song Muddy Waters made famous, "Baby, Please Don't Go", which Chavis performs 'unplugged' with just his squeeze box.
Although Who Stole My Monkey? is a perfect document of this Cajun / Creole music, it may be more than just the music that makes this recording go down in history - it's the first zydeco album that contains X-rated lyrics, thus forcing the record company to plaster a parental warning label on the front cover of the disc. The songs in question here are two popular numbers that have become favorites at his live shows, "Uncle Bud" and "Deacon Jones". While these high-energy songs are hysterical in their content, you're not likely to ever hear them on the radio, not even in Louisiana.
On Who Stole My Monkey? Boozoo Chavis proves that he's still the master of the zydeco domain. All hail the king.

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