If you're one who's down with the zydeco sound, you owe one to the Chenier family. It was accordionist Clifton Chenier who basically created the music's modern incarnation. The mixing of Creole folk with R&B and blues was a great way to please southwestern Louisiana audiences in the '50s and ultimately landed the senior Chenier national recording deals.
The formula has been updated and used by succeeding generations of zydeco bands, none of whom are more consistently crowd-pleasin' than the troupe headed by Clifton's son, C.J. Joining his pop's Red Hot Louisiana Band as a sax player in the '70s, the once jazz-bound C.J. took over on accordion after his father's death in 1987.
C.J.'s early recording career found him on an unlikely home for a zydeco artist, the L.A. new-wave and punk-skewing label Slash Records, which was receptive to his energy level. Since then, he's turned to Alligator Records to issue the bulk of his catalog -- though he hasn't dropped a new album since 2001's Step It Up! That disc bucks the funk-and-pop-crossover trend and reaches back into father Clifton's old-school zydeco. Thankfully, while Clevelanders wait for a long-overdue follow-up, we can catch C.J. live at Wilbert's this Friday.