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C.J. Chenier: The Desperate Kingdom of Love

As the son of zydeco king Clifton Chenier, C.J. Chenier was born to play the accordion. After his father’s death in 1987, he took over the reigns of Clifton’s Red Hot Louisiana Band and subsequently joined the ranks of zydeco’s elite. Chenier’s eighth album as a leader is a curious affair that strays from the usual blend of chugging, upbeat dance numbers and French Creole waltz-time ballads that have filled Western Louisiana zydeco joints since the pioneering days of his father.

Recorded just a month after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, The Desperate Kingdom of Love is more introspective than C.J.’s usual house-party fare and includes soulful readings of P.J. Harvey’s meditative title track and Van Morrison’s subdued “Comfort You.” Chenier’s rendition of Hank Williams’ mournful “Lost on the River,” a timely anthem in the wake of Katrina, is both poignant and powerful. He also pays tribute to his father’s legacy on Clifton’s “Black Snake Blues,” his Creole anthem “Ain’t No Need in Cryin'” and the Professor Longhair-flavored rumba-boogie number “Rosemary.”

Chenier does kick up his heels on his own rousing “Who’s Cheatin’ Who?” but this affecting project-done in collaboration with Boston’s rootsy Tarbox Ramblers-is generally a more muted affair for the crown prince of zydeco.

Originally Published