Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas
I'm a Zydeco Hog
Rounder 2143
This could be the best zydeco band since Clifton Chenier passed away. Buckwheat may have put the crown on his own head, and Boozoo Chavis may be the last link to zydeco's roots, but Nathan and his Zydeco Cha Chas inhabit the spirit and the sound of Clifton's top bands.

Like Chenier, but unlike most other "French" accordionists, Nathan plays the big, piano accordion. And his band -- with brother Mark on rubboard and Allen Broussard on tenor saxophone -- recalls the great Chenier aggregation with brother Cleveland on rubboard and John Hart on sax. Most importantly, the Cha Chas can rock.

Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas first appeared in recorded form on Zydeco Live!, a 1988 Rounder release on which he shared a live session with Boozoo. Rounder has put him back in front of a live audience for I'm a Zydeco Hog. This time they left the French dance halls behind (including Nathan's home club, El Sid O's, which brother Sid opened specifically for Nathan to have a home base) and set up the mics at Mid-City Lanes (a k a Rock'n'Bowl) in New Orleans, one of the hottest venues in town.

Nathan, backed by drums and rubboard, can deliver a fierce zydeco stomp, as he does on "Hey Bebe" and "El Sid O's Zydeco Boogaloo." With the percussionists driving the beat behind him, Nathan squeezes out big chords and fast runs that keep the dance floor hopping. When Broussard joins in with a powerful, blues-based solo, you can chalk up another strike.

There are other exceptional dance tunes, two-steps like "Josephine Ce Pas Ma Femme" and "Oh Yie Yie (Mon Coeur Fais Mal)" and slow grinds like "Slow Horses and Fast Women." The waltz is represented here by "Grand Prix (What a Price I Had to Pay)." The Cha Chas handle it all expertly, with devotion and energy, mixing innovation and tradition. After all, that's what Clifton did better than anyone else. Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas are ready to take the music to the next level.

-- David Feld

This page and all contents are © 1998 by Blues Access,
Boulder, CO, USA.