Zydeco Ambassador

Terrance Simien - Jam The Jazzfest
(Tone-Cool Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Zydeco, a musical style that blends together swaying, old-school country two-steps, waltz rhythms, and French patois lead by an infectious accordion, has never seemed to break out of it's homeland, deep in the heart of Louisiana cajun country. Ever since zydeco inventor Clifton Chenier began playing this high-spirited, backwoods music in the forties, artists from all over Louisiana such as Boozoo Chavis, Beau Jocque and Buckwheat Zydeco have been trying to gain a broader audience through extensive touring across the U.S. and Europe.
The one artist who may be the first to 'go global' with zydeco music, however, is Mallet, Louisiana native Terrance Simien. The framework of Simien's music is built on strong influences from his heros Clifton Chenier and John Delafose, but his inspirations aren't limited to just unadulterated zydeco. Mixing in a good measure of New Orleans R&B, soul, and a pinch of rock, Simien's highly seasoned flavor of zydeco may appeal more to the tastes of music lovers who view pure zydeco as just a lively ethnic music.
On his latest 5-song EP entitled "Jam The Jazzfest" Simien displays not only his talent as an accomplished accordion player but sings with a smooth, soulful voice as well. On the title track he praises the food, fun and music found every year at New Orlean's Jazz and Heritage Festival claiming it's "the most fun you'll ever have without getting undressed". Simien also pays homage to his neighboring city of New Orleans on "Iko Iko", the Neville Brothers "Brother John" and "Jambalaya", a medley of Crescent City standards. On a cover of Bob Dylan's "Baby Stop Crying" Simien sets aside his accordion for awhile and turns this number into a soul-drenched ballad complete with wailing sax. "May Your Music Live On" is a loving tribute to the late zydeco legend John Delafose, while the rousing instrumental number "Macque Choux" finds Simien mixing things up with his fiery accordion and tight 5-piece band.
Simien is currently working on a zydeco record for children that focuses on Louisiana-Creole culture which may not only musically build bridges to other countries but between different generations as well.

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