Clifton Chenier

An Introduction to Clifton Chenier

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Zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier found himself in a bit of a quandary in the late '60s. He was under contract to Arhoolie Records, which was fine, but Arhoolie only released LPs and Chenier needed some fresh singles to put on Gulf Coast jukeboxes in order to keep his unique blend of blues and R&B rhythms crossed with Cajun and Creole melodies (the exact recipe for zydeco) in the collective ear of his bayou audience. So late in 1966, Chenier entered a studio in Texas and cut a series of singles for Huey P. Meaux's Crazy Cajun Records, following up with three singles for another of Meaux's imprints, Tear Drop, a year later, before returning to Crazy Cajun Records for a one-off LP. All of these singles (plus three of the LP tracks) are collected on An Introduction to Clifton Chenier, and while Chenier went on to do more focused and hard-hitting tracks later in his career, the Meaux sides have a delightfully offhand charm that is tough not to embrace. Among the highlights collected here are "Shake 'Em Up Baby," the loping "Goin' to Big Mary," "(High as A) Georgia Pine," and the moving "Comin' Back Home," which shows off the soul and gospel elements that were often present just below the surface in Chenier's music. Also worth noting are versions of "Oh! Lucille," and the traditional "Big Mamou."

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