Tag Archives: United States of America

Artist Profiles: Chris Thile

Chris Thile

 

Chris Thile was born in Santa Mónica (California) on February 2, 1981. He’s a renowned mandolin virtuoso who has performed since a very young age with some of the biggest names in contemporary bluegrass. Chris was a founding member of The Grass is Greener with Richard Greene and David Grier and also a member of Nickel Creek together with Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins.

 

 

Thile began playing the mandolin at the age of 5 and started performing at California bluegrass festivals. At the age of 12 he won the prestigious national mandolin championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 1993. That same year Thile began recording his first solo album with mostly self-penned songs.

His third solo album Not All Who Wander Are Lost featured guest appearances by Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks and Edgar Meyer. Later, Thile teamed with mandolin master Mike Marshall for an album of duets called Into the Cauldron that included jazz, world music and the music of Bach.

 

Chris Thile in 2013 – Photo by Brantley Gutiérrez

 

When you grow up with something you can become so familiar with it that you start to take it for granted ” Chris Thile said about his 2006 album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. “And especially when you grow up playing it at a time when quite frankly you have nothing to express it’s easy to ignore as a more mature musician the expressive possibilities of that particular musical aesthetic—and they are great they are many. So I came to see that bluegrass was something that I was unfairly dismissing about my musicianship.

“Part of it was getting divorced and realizing that I was singing bluegrass heartbreak songs. That’s what would really resonate with me; those were the songs I was singing—’Bury Me Beneath The Willow ‘ ‘More Pretty Girls Than One.’ And another part of it was living in New York because for me at least New York demands that you find what it is about you that’s unique. There are so many talented people—exceptional people—that to stand out you either have to be completely average or really really different. And having been trained in the ways of bluegrass as a kid I realized how much that meant to me. I felt you can’t fight yourself—any time you’re fighting yourself you might not lose but you just can’t win. And I realized I do that well because that’s what I grew up with. So it signifies a return of sorts; I’m realizing what a meaningful part of my life that music is.”

How to Grow a Woman from the Ground included young musicians with a great reputation in bluegrass music, including fiddler Gabe Witcher whom Thile had met at the Follows Camp festival; banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny; guitarist and singer Chris “Critter” Eldridge; and bassist Greg Garrison.

 

Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer

 

In the following years, Chris Thile collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, guitarist Michael Daves, Stuart Duncan and many other musicians. He also started a new band called The Punch Brothers.

 

 

 

In late 2016, Chris Thile became the new host of A Prairie Home Companion, a popular radio theater show featuring music, humor and storytelling that is broadcast by public radio stations across the United States.

 

Discography:

Little Cowpoke, with Nickel Creek (1993)

Leading Off… (Sugar Hill Records, 1994)

Here to There, with Nickel Creek (1997)

Stealing Second (Sugar Hill Records, 1997)

Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill Records, 2000)

Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Sugar Hill Records, 2001)

This Side, with Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill, 2002)

Into the Cauldron, with Mike Marshall (Sugar Hill Records, 2003)

Deceiver (Sugar Hill Records, 2004)

Why Should the Fire Die?, with Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill, 2005)

How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)

Live: Duets, with Mike Marshall (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)

Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile (Nonesuch Records, 2008)

Punch, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2008)

Antifogmatic, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2010)

Sleep with One Eye Open, with Michael Daves (Nonesuch Records, 2011)

The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan (Sony Masterworks, 2011)

Who’s Feeling Young Now?, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2012)

Ahoy!, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2012)

Bach: Sonatas & Partitas 1 (Nonesuch, 2013)

A Dotted Line, with Nickel Creek (Nonesuch Records, 2014)

Bass & Mandolin, with Edgar Meyer (Nonesuch Records, 2014)

The Wireless, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2015)

The Phosphorescent Blues, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2015)

Bach Trios, with Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma (Nonesuch Records, 2017)

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch Records, 2017)

Videos:

Essential Techniques for Mandolin (Hal Leonard 2005) 85 Minute DVD or VHS plus music and tab booklet
Bluegrass Journey documentary (Blue Stores, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Chicago Afrobeat Project

Chicago Afrobeat Project
Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP) is a dynamic musical collective rooted in 1970s funk and jazz-infused afrobeat. CAbP mixes traditional afrobeat with other dance-invoking musical motifs such as Chicago’s electronic house music complex West African percussion rhythms and upbeat funk.

At each performance the polyrhythmic groove and sharp horn lines of CAbP stir up energetic momentum sweeping listeners directly to the dance floor time and time again.

The group began in late 2002 in a third-story loft on Lake Street in downtown Chicago. What began as a simple experiment turned into sifting through unique and colorful musicians literally from around the world.

One by one at a series of loft rehearsals in downtown Chicago like-minded musicians joined the project until members of the current band felt an undeniable chemistry.

Today the ever-morphing 7- to 14-piece CAbP consists of a full percussion section a full horn section keys guitar bass and African dancers (at select shows) — and is still growing.

The band’s live set consists of originals as well as carefully chosen classic and obscure afrobeat covers — each embedded with the unique CAbP footprint. In CAbP each member is a leader an ensemble player a percussionist and a soloist.

Discography:

Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP Music 1, 2005)

(A) Move to Silent Unrest (CAbP Music 2, 2007)

Off The Grid (CAbP Music, 2009)

Nyash Up! (Chicago Afrobeat Project, 2013)

website: www.chicagoafrobeatproject.com

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Artist Profiles: Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains. He was a disciple of the legendary guitarist Merle Travis (Chet named his daughter Merle). Together with Merle Travis and Doc Watson he made up the trinity of country guitar. Chet was able to record with his hero before his death.

Chester Burton Atkins was born June 2, 1924 on a farm near Luttrell eastern Tennessee about 2 miles northeast of Knoxville. Chet Atkins’ origins were humble. Suffering with asthma throughout his youth he was a sickly child who nonetheless had to face working his family’s farm when his parents separated. He was only 1 at that time. But his father was a music teacher and song-leader with a number of traveling evangelists and his brother Jimmy -13 years older than Chet- was himself an accomplished guitar player.

Chet’s first instrument was a ukulele strung with wire from a screen door which he was able to get music out of for only short periods of time before the soft steel strands broke. Chet moved to Georgia when he was 1 to live with his father hoping the climate would be easier on his asthma. By this time he was playing a Sears Silvertone guitar which inexpensive as it was at least did not rely upon scrap metal for strings.

He left high school at age 17 knowing he wanted to pursue a career in music. In fact he admits that his childhood adversity was a significant motivator in driving him to be “the greatest at what he did.”

A series of performance slots on a number of radio stations as well as the popular Old Dominion Barn Dance often ended in Chet’s dismissal largely because he was already a sophisticated well-versed musician working for employers who wanted nothing but simple twangy “hillbilly” guitar.

His big break came when a gig with the legendary Carter Family led him to the Grand Ole Opry where his talents were finally appreciated. Chet became a sought-after session player working on records by some of the great pioneers of both country and rock’n’roll including the Everly Brothers and a kid from Tupelo Mississippi named Presley.

When he became RCA Records’ Manager of Operations Chet convinced the label to build an office and studio on Music Row in Nashville spearheading the music industry’s migration to Music City.

He was the main architect of the “Nashville Sound “which saved commercial country by marrying the music to pop sensibilities. His legacy to the industry he helped found and the culture he defined is undeniable. Upon leaving RCA Chet continued his highly successful career as a recording artist when he signed with Columbia Records where he remained till his death.

Chet Atkins is country music. He has played with Maybelle Carter Homer &Jethro Hank Snow Elvis Presley Eddy Arnold Jerry Reed Les Paul Ray Charles Hank Williams Sr. Kitty Wells Faron Young Lester Flatt &Earl Scruggs the Louvin Brothers Ernest Tubb Marty Robbins Webb Pierce Johnnie &Jack George Morgan Wanda Jackson George Jones etc. He has produced albums by Patsy Cline the Everly Brothers Floyd Cramer Waylon Jennings Skeeter Davis Skeets McDonald Porter Wagoner Charlie Pride Charlie Rich Hank Locklin Roger Miller Roy Orbison Don Gibson Bobby Bare etc. As a talent scout Chet helped sign Willie Nelson Dolly Parton Guy Clark Steve Wariner Tom T. Hall Connie Smith Dottie West and countless others.

A historical meeting between Chet Atkins and Doc Watson two of the 20th century’s most influential American guitarists was documented in 1980. Released for the first time on CD Reflections was an artifact for the ages and should be inspiration for guitarists for generations to come.

Chet while humble about his place in the world of music and obviously at peace with both himself and his plans for the future made it clear that he and his guitar had a lasting romance that shows no signs of abating. “There may come a day when I can’t play anymore ” Chet said “but otherwise I’ll be playing as long as I live. I could never put the guitar down ” he concluded laughing. “It might forget who I was.”

Atkins recorded more than 75 albums. In the years before his death he collaborated with many artists representing diverse genres such as Mark Knopfler Paul McCartney Eric Johnson George Benson and Earl Klugh.

Chet Atkins died of cancer on Saturday June 3, 2001 at this home in Nashville. He was 77 years old.

There were rumors started just a few months after Chet’s passing about a collection of unreleased solo guitar recordings Chet had made in his home studio. Chet’s Grandson Jonathan his engineer Mike Poston and longtime friend and sideman Paul Yandell all went down into Chet’s home studio. What they found were 28 cuts of Chet playing solo guitar arrangements some newly arranged solo performances of some of Chet’s favorite songs some songs that had never been recorded in any form. It was a special solo project Chet had undertaken himself over a 10 year period beginning in 1982. The recordings became available in 2003 under the title: Chet Atkins: Solo Sessions.

Selected discography:

A Master and his Music (Sony Legacy)
Essential Chet Atkins (Sony Legacy)
Guitar Legend: The RCA Years (Sony Legacy)
19 Original Albums, 10 CD boxed set
8 Classic Albums (Real Gone Music)

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Artist Profiles: Cherish the Ladies

Cherish the Ladies in 2008

Cherish the Ladies is an Irish traditional music sensation, one of the most successful and sought-after Irish-American groups in Celtic music history. The group was named after a well-known Irish traditional jig.

Organized in in 1985 by folklorist and musician Mick Moloney and sponsored by the Ethnic Folk Arts Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, they began as a concert series featuring the brightest lights in Irish traditional music. Though initially the group won recognition as the first and only all-women traditional Irish band, they soon established themselves as musicians and performers without peer and have won many thousands of listeners and fans of their music.

With their remarkable mix of skilled instrumental talents, beautiful vocals, captivating arrangements and dazzling step dancing, Cherish the Ladies combines all the facets of Irish traditional culture and puts it forth in a humorous and entertaining package. The group has traveled throughout North and South America, the United Kingdom and Europe performing in the finest concert halls and international festivals. They have been named Entertainment Group of the Year by the Irish Voice Newspaper and received the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s International Group of the Year Award at the Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland.

The original musicians were Joanie Madden (flute, whistles), Mary Coogan (guitar), Maureen Doherty Macken (button accordion, whistle), Winifred Horan (fiddle, dancing feet), Siobhan Egan (bodhran), Eileen Golden (dancing feet).

Discography:

Cherish the Ladies: Irish Women Musicians in America (Shanachie, 1985)

Fathers And Daughters from Cherish the Ladies: Irish Traditional Music in America (1985)

The Back Door (Green Linnet, 1992)

Out and About (Green Linnet, 1993)

New Day Dawning (Green Linnet, 1996)

Live! (1997)

One and All: The Best of Cherish the Ladies (Green Linnet, 1998)

Threads of Time (1998)

At Home (1999)

The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone (2001)

Across the Waves (2004)

On Christmas Night (Rounder, 2004)

Woman of the House (Rounder, 2005)

A Star In The East (2009)

Country Crossroads (2011)

An Irish Homecoming, Live from Bucknell (2013)

Christmas in Ireland (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Cathie Ryan

Cathie Ryan

 

Irish-American soprano vocalist and songwriter Cathie Ryan grew up in Detroit, Michigan,  surrounded by traditional Irish influences.  She is expert at the ancient art of sean nos (pronounced “shan-nos”) unaccompanied singing, and its traces can be heard in her delicate trilling and subtle ornamentation. The Detroit influences are also there in the form of blues and R&B beats.

 

Cathie Ryan

 

“I would describe my music as coming from an Irish-American experience,” Ryan said. “I was raised by Irish parents in an American city setting, and my music comes from that, from all of that. But I always thought you had to do one or the other: you were either an American singer or you were an Irish singer. It has taken time to understand that I can be both. I just sing what’s in me.”

Cathie has released several solo albums and is featured on more than forty compilations of Celtic Music.

 

Cathie Ryan

 

There is nothing like a live show, being with an audience, sharing the music. That is the best part of being a singer and writing songs ,’ she says.

In 2003 Cathie was included in the famous Irish music collection, A Woman’s Heart’ A Decade On placing her among Irish music’s finest female vocalists and songwriters. It was the first time Americans were featured in the series and she shared the honor with Allison Krauss, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Her original songs have been recorded by distinguished Irish vocalists such as Frances Black and Mary Black among others.

Discography:

Cathie Ryan (Shanachie, 1997)

Mother, with Robin Spielberg and Susan McKeown (North Star, 1999)

The Music of What Happens (Shanachie, 1998)

Somewhere Along the Road (Shanachie, 2001)

The Farthest Wave (Shanachie, 2005)

Through Wind and Rain (Mo Leanbh Records, 2012)

website: http://www.cathieryan.com

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Artist Profiles: Cady Finlayson

Cady Finlayson

Cady Finlayson specializes in spirited Irish fiddle music with American Folk and World Music Influences.

From her first show in a small Irish pub in the U.S. Virgin Islands to her Carnegie Hall appearance for the New York Police Department (NYPD) Memorial Concert, Cady Finlayson has brought her spirited Irish fiddling to numerous venues throughout the United States.

Cady Finlayson received her Master of Music degree from Mannes College of Music and the President’s Award for Irish fiddle study at Blas World Music Centre in Limerick, Ireland.

Her Shines Like Silver was listed as one of the top 2 CDs of 2002 by WVPE. Recording credits include the soundtrack to Irish film Snakes and Ladders, baseball film Random Acts, the Peace on Earth Holiday Folk Tour with Judy Collins, and CDs for artists including Pierce Turner, Piper John Bradley and Holly Palmer.

Her all-star Irish band includes singer Honor Finnegan, guitar master Kyle Sanna and a driving rhythm section led by Tim Alworth. Her CD, Harp and Shamrock, celebrates her love of both traditional Irish music and American folk/world music percussion.

Discography:

Shines Like Silver (2002)
Harp and Shamrock (Violincaddy Music, 2004)
Irish Coffee (2007)
Electric Green, with Vita Tanga (2010)

www.cadyfinlayson.com

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Artist Profiles: Calexico

Calexico

Calexico is an influential band that plays border music, a mix of Tex-Mex and southwestern music, country and rock. Although the band founders, Joey Burns and John Convertino, originally met in California, Calexico was formed in Tucson, Arizona.

Each of their albums attracted attention, from their debut Spoke (1996) to The Black Light (1998), the breakthrough, mariachi-infused Hot Rail (2000), to their highly successful Feast of Wire (2003), that ventured into ambient electronica and Gil Evans influenced jazz.

In early 2004, Calexico released a live DVD, Calexico – World Drifts In, taken from a remarkable performance at the Barbican in London.

In 2006 Calexico released Garden Ruin, officially the band’s fifth album, aside from their numerous tour-only CDs. Written in Bisbee, Arizona; recorded in Tucson, Arizona; mixed in Brooklyn, New York; and mastered in California.

Discography

Spoke (Quarterstick Records, 1997)
The Black Light (Quarterstick Records, 1998)
Aerocalexico (1999)
Hot Rail (Quarterstick Records, 2000)
Feast of Wire (Quarterstick Records, 2003)
Convict Pool EP (Quarterstick Records, 2004)
Garden Ruin (Quarterstick Records, 2006)
Carried to Dust (Quarterstick Records, 2008)
Selections From Road Atlas 1998-2011 Quarterstick Records, 2011)
Algiers (Anti, 2012)
Spiritoso (2013)
Edge of the Sun (Anti, 2015)

Video

Calexico – World Drifts In, Live At The Barbican London (Quarter Stick)

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Artist Profiles: Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton

Born near Asheville, North Carolina in 1973, Bryan Sutton started playing the guitar at the age of 8. Sutton first came to prominence as part of Ricky Skaggs’ bluegrass band Kentucky Thunder. At the beginning of 1999, Bryan followed his heart and retired from Kentucky Thunder to devote himself to the recording work he finds so fascinating and rewarding.

As a leading session guitarist, he continues to appear on numerous recordings, from gospel albums to Rhonda Vincent’s Back Home Again to million-sellers like the Dixie Chicks’ Fly. His guitar playing anchors Dolly Parton’s sensational bluegrass albums, Little Sparrow and The Grass Is Blue (Sugar Hill), and the singer returned the favor by contributing to Bryan’s album, Ready To Go.

Bryan Sutton

Filling in for the injured Tony Rice with the Bluegrass Sessions gave Bryan continued acclaim as he continually amazed audiences with his distinctive precision guitar leads.

Bryan has been honored as IBMA Guitarist of the Year in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, was awarded a Grammy in 2007 and in 2011 was named Speciality Instrument Player of the Year at the Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

Discography:

Ready to Go (Sugar Hill Records, 2000)
Bluegrass Guitar (Sugar Hill Records, 2003)
Not Too Far from the Tree (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)
Almost Live (Sugar Hill Records, 2009)
Into My Own (Sugar Hill Records, 2014)
The More I Learn (Sugar Hill Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco’s powerful live shows were legendary for the fun and abandon they inspired. It was the first Zydeco band to land a major record label deal, the first to perform on a national television show, the first to have its music featured in major motion pictures, TV shows and national TV commercials, the first to record with top rock musicians and the first to introduce Zydeco to the music mainstream.

Leader, Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, a community where many black people express their Creole heritage by speaking French, and by playing and dancing to Zydeco. This hybrid genre blends Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and blues, with soul, rock, country and the French-rooted Cajun music of the Creoles’ white neighbors.

As the son of a Zydeco accordionist, Buckwheat grew up steeped in this culture, and also absorbed Lafayette’s ample outpouring of blues and Gulf Coast “swamp pop.” He began his professional career as an R&B sideman, playing keyboards for Joe Tex, Barbara Lynn and Gatemouth Brown. In 1971, Dural began leading his own R&B band, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, playing the contemporary sounds of such popular bands as Parliament Funkadelic and Earth, Wind &Fire. The group scored a regional hit with “It’s Hard to Get.”

By the mid-1970s, South Louisiana began to experience a grass-roots cultural renaissance as Zydeco and Cajun music, once scorned as overly ethnic, gained appreciation as treasured cultural resources. As the demand grew for Zydeco bands, Dural was offered a gig playing organ for the “King of Zydeco,” the late Clifton Chenier. Buck (as he was also known) worked hard and learned all that he could. After three years of touring, recording and accordion apprenticeship, he left in 1979 to lead his own group, Buckwheat Zydeco and the ils Sont Partis Band. Like Chenier, Buckwheat continued to blend traditional Creole Zydeco with the latest black-contemporary styles, drawing on all of his rich and varied musical experience.

Recording prolifically for various independent labels, Dural attracted the attention of music journalist Ted Fox, who became his manager and co-producer. In 1987, Fox arranged Buckwheat’s signing with Island Records, and he became the first Zydeco artist to appear on a major label. This resulted in the band’s fourth Grammy nomination. During the years of critical acclaim that ensued, Buckwheat Zydeco toured constantly, headlining at major venues as well as sharing stages with the likes of U2 and Eric Clapton, and even The Boston Pops. Clapton also recorded as a special guest with Buckwheat Zydeco – as did Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos – on some of his numerous projects that followed.

 

Buckwheat Zydeco

 

The band performed at both of President Clinton’s inaugurals, and Buck was featured on the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta before a worldwide television audience of three billion.

Another first project for Buckwheat Zydeco was the release of the band’s lively children’s album, Choo Choo Boogaloo, on the Music For Little People label which has won numerous awards and rave reviews. It features zydeco originals as well as classics such as “Iko, Iko,”“Cotton Fields,”“Little Red Caboose,” and “Skip To My Lou.” In the spirit of creating a genuine family feeling people of all ages contributed to the music, including a talented young people’s gospel choir from Baton Rouge.

Buckwheat Zydeco celebrated its 20th anniversary by releasing an exciting and joyous retrospective album. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 2-Year Party, a compilation of the band’s best recordings, was released on Buckwheat’s own Tomorrow Recordings label on July 6, 1999. It features 74 minutes of music on one disc as well as comprehensive liner notes in a 16-page booklet in a slipcased package. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 2-Year Party, is the definitive album, and only multi-label retrospective, of the band that has led the campaign to spread the exuberant sounds of Louisiana’s Zydeco music around the world.

The album’s cover features an unforgettable image of Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. in front of the tiny boyhood home he shared with eleven brothers and sisters in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is both a tribute to his roots and a statement of how far he and the Creole music he loves have come. The album’s colorful original art was created by award-winning Jackson, MS artist H.C. Porter whose work is exhibited in shows and museums around the country.

The 1999 studio recording, Trouble, was released on Tomorrow Recordings on January 12, 1999. Buck felt strongly that this was his best album in a dozen years. Perhaps more aptly titled than Buck even knew, Trouble was originally released in May of 1997 by Mesa/Atlantic just as Mesa was undergoing a shake-up. Unsatisfied with the results of the original release – and unwilling to give up on what they felt was one of the band’s key albums – Dural and Ted Fox, convinced Atlantic to revert the album to them.

On Trouble, Buckwheat decided to concentrate on the skilled players within his band, and revisit the live-on-the-bandstand feel of the Zydeco and R&B dance halls where he first learned his craft.

Stanley Dural, Jr. died September 24, 2016.

 

 

Discography

One For The Road (Blues Unlimited Records, 1979)
100% Fortified Zydeco (Black Top Records, 1983)
Turning Point (Rounder Records, 1983)
Waitin’ For My Ya Ya (Rounder Records, 1985)
On a Night Like This (Island Records, 1987)
Taking It Home (Island Records, 1988)
Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire (MCA Special Products, 1990)
Buckwheat’s Zydeco Party (Rounder Records, 1992)
On Track (Atlantic Records, 1992)
Menagerie: The Essential Zydeco Collection (Mango Records, 1993)
Choo Choo Boogaloo (Music For Little People, 1994)
Five Card Stud (Island Records, 1994)
Trouble (Tomorrow Recordings, 1997)
Buckwheat Zydeco Story: A 20 Year Party (Tomorrow Recordings, 1999)
The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O Records, 2000)
Down Home Live (Tomorrow Recordings, 2001 )
Classics (Rounder Records 116 612 177-2, 2003)
Jackpot! (Tomorrow Recordings, 2005)
The Best of Buckwheat Zydeco: Millennium Collection (Island Records, 2006)
Lay Your Burden Down (Alligator Records, 2009)
Let The Good Times Roll: Essential Recordings (Rounder Records, 29)
Bayou Boogie (Music for Little People, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: C. J. Chenier

C. J. Chenier

Zydeco star C. J. Chenier was born on September 28, 1957 in Port Arthur, Texas, right next to the Louisiana state line. He has been called “The Crown Prince of Zydeco” by various music publications. According to Chenier, leader of the famous Red Hot Louisiana band, those titles are fine, but the truth lies in the music. “What we’re playing here are real songs,” he says proudly “Songs that tell stories and make you dance.”

That clarification is important to C.J. It is a lesson he learned from his father, acclaimed zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier. C.J.’s music has always embraced zydeco traditions, but he continues to push the music to new levels. “I won’t limit myself,” says C.J., and it’s clear why.

C.J. was aware of his father’s music but also had other tastes. He liked James Brown and Funkadelic, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. C.J. learned saxophone early on and as a teenager played in black top 40 bands in Port Arthur. He studied music in college and dreamed of making it as a jazz or funk player.

Then, one week before C.J.’s 21st birthday, Clifton asked him to bring his sax along and join the Red Hot Louisiana Band. “I didn’t know any of the songs they played,” he recalls, “but the guys helped me out and brought me along. And then one day the music hit me, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.” In 1985, as the effects of diabetes began to seriuosly affect his father, C.J., at Clifton’s request, picked up the accordion and started opening the shows. “He didn’t push it,” C.J. remembers. “He let me decide for myself. But when he first called me to go out and play with his band, I think it was his idea all along that I would carry on his music.

After Clifton’s death in 1987, C.J. inherited his father’s accordion as well as the Red Hot Louisiana Band. But he took his father’s music and built upon it, adding elements of jazz and funk he grew up with. When asked about his accordion playing, C.J. is quick to defer to his father, whom “nobody could ever touch,” says C.J.

C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band continued to forge ahead, releasing three solo albums (one on Arhoolie and two on Slash) and playing hundreds of concerts a year. They attracted the attention of fans, critics, and fellow musicians by playing major festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, San Diego’s Street scene, and Milwaukee’s Summerfest. Singer-songwriter Paul Simon noticed C.J., and picked him to play on his Rhythm Of The Saints album and then asked him to join the “Born At The Right Time” tour. But that’s not all. He also shows up as a guest on the Gin Blossoms’ New Miserable Experience album.

C.J.’s next step led him to Alligator Records, the label where his father won a Grammy award for his album, I’m Here (it was also the first Grammy for the then new label).

C.J.’s label debut, Too Much Fun, became a favorite with fans and critics alike. Living Blues magazine, in their 1996 Critics’ Awards, named Too Much Fun Best Zydeco Album of 1995. Features ran in major newspapers and magazines everywhere, including The Chicago Tribune, Billboard, Blues Revue and The Los Angeles Times.

1995 appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and CNN brought C.J.’s music to his widest audience yet. But all this attention didn’t change his philosophy toward his music. “You go to a gig by a jazz band,” he says, “and everybody’s sitting down, sipping drinks. You play zydeco and you see shoes flying off. You can’t come to my show and stay unhappy all night long. You’re going to break a smile and stomp your foot before too long. This is happy music, and it makes you dance.”

C.J. Chenier recorded his 2011 album Can’t Sit Down live, in just one session, at Rock Romano’s Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas. His goal was to capture the freshness of his music. and this is why he decided to produce the album himself.“I figured that nobody knows better what I want than I do,”he says. “Nobody knows better how I want my accordion to sound. Nobody knows better how I want my band to sound. So I decided to stop going with other people’s ears and start going with my own.”

Can’t Sit Down includes pieces by C.J. ‘s father,  Clifton Chenier, including the opening track ‘Can’t Sit down’. “I really liked it so I said, OK, let’s try this one,‘and everybody fell right in. It just clicked. That’s a sign that something is a keeper, when everybody can fall in and it feels good.”

One of C.J, Chenier’s original compositions is a tribute to his uncle, Cleveland Chenier. “He’s the grandfather of the washboard, “ says C.J. “Nobody has the technique he had. My uncle Cleveland used to call me sometimes on Sundays and he’d say,  I’m coming to pick you up. We’re gonna take a ride.’We’d go ride around. He’d always have a half pint of Crown Royale in his top coat pocket. He’d pick me up on Sundays and him and me would hit a club here and hit a club there, and just have a good time.”

Curtis Mayfield’s “We Gotta Have Peace”closes the album. “That song reflects what I’ve been feeling,”C.J. says. “We need peace, we gotta have it. That’s why I have my grandson talking in the beginning, because if we don’t get it together, where is his future?

Discography:

My Baby Don’t Wear No Shoes (Arhoolie, 1988)

Hot Rod (Slash, 1990)

I Ain’t No Playboy (Slash, 1992)

Too Much Fun (Alligator Records 1995)

The Big Squeeze (Alligator Records AL 4844, 1996)

Step It Up! (Alligator Records 2001)

The Desperate Kingdom of Love (Word Village 46841, 2006)

Can’t Sit Down (World Village 46819, 2011)

Live at 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Mix, 2012)

Live at 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Mix, 2013)

Live at 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Music, 2014)

Live at 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Mix, 2015)

Live at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Music, 2016)

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