Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas

Hang It High, Hang It Low

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There's no question at all that Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas are a great band. They've got that paradoxical tight-yet-loose thing going, and an irrepressible energy, and there's an infectious joy in everything they do. Nathan Williams is also a pretty good singer, and when you're leading a zydeco band you don't necessarily want to be much better than a pretty good singer -- flashy or overly cultivated vocals would only distract from the good-time groove that is zydeco's raison d'ĂȘtre. Where this band tends to hit the wall is on the question of song quality. Again, if you're a zydeco band you don't want to fancy things up too much with froo-froo chord changes or complicated song structures. But there ought to be at least a few chord changes, and they ought to be hooky. There are a few such songs on this album, notably the gospel-influenced "Think About the Good Times" and ska-flavored numbers like "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa" and "Do It Now." There are also a couple of numbers on which the band's sheer, funky exuberance completely transcends the inherent limitations of the song -- the best example being the delightful "Zydeco Cha Cha." But unfortunately there are also too many moments when the songs' lack of substance drags everything down, as on the lackluster "My Zydeco," and moments when the band's salutary looseness dissolves into sloppiness, as on the anemic and out-of-tune "Your Love Lasts as Long as Your Money." This is an OK album, but it's hard to escape the feeling that with a bit more effort and attention to detail it could have been a much better one.

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