Across the Parish Line, the seventh album by Terrance Simien with his band the Zydeco Experience (formerly the Mallet Boys), is not a compilation, technically speaking, but certain tracks do look back across Simien's two decades of playing. His approach to zydeco has been anything but purist, and he has welcomed both other musical styles and a variety of guest musicians into his orbit. In 1985, at the outset of his career, he teamed with Paul Simon, then investigating zydeco for his Graceland album (which embraced more than just the South African music for which it became known), for a recording of Clifton Chenier's "You Used to Call Me" that was released only on a local single in New Orleans. That track is finally reissued here. Another vintage performance is a duet of the Band's "Twilight" with that group's Rick Danko recorded in 1999, the year of his death, with another Band member, Garth Hudson, sitting in on keyboards. Other guest vocalists include Marcia Ball, on a cover of the Elvis Presley/Willie Nelson standard "Always on My Mind," and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo on the Spanish-language "Cómo Viviré, Mi Cholita?," a Cuban song by Pedro Luis Ferrer. And even when sticking to his own group, Simien introduces outside influences, turning in a cover of "Corrina" that recalls Taj Mahal and two songs with specific reference to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, Bob Dylan's "Mississippi" (on which Simien slightly rewrites the chorus, singing, "Only thing I did wrong/Stayed in New Orleans [instead of Mississippi] a day too long") and Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," with its chorus, "They're trying to wash us away." There is also a cover of "Closer to You," the song that Simien wrote with Dennis Quaid for Quaid's 1987 film The Big Easy, set in New Orleans. For all this eclecticism, Simien nevertheless manages to assert both his own identity and that of zydeco. In fact, he demonstrates that the music, itself a hybrid, is capable of incorporating other sympathetic styles to its benefit.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Paul Simon
feat: Marcia Ball
feat: David Hidalgo