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Squeeze Play

Chubby Carrier
Airing It Out: Chubby Carrier squeezes blues and funk into zydeco.

Photo by Jim Purdum

Chubby Carrier brings zydeco into the mainstream

By Nicky Baxter

MENTION ZYDECO music anywhere outside the Southwest, and you're likely to get a quizzical look. Accordion music may be the "bomb" in Bohemia (e.g., polka), but historically, it's been a blow. But hold onto your "squeeze box": Chubby Carrier has discovered the antidote to anti-accordion/zydeco blahs. By approaching zydeco like a bayou chef would a gumbo meal, Carrier is helping popularize a version of the music that is less reliant on the traditional two-step style.

"I call what we do 'high-energy swamp funk music,' " Carrier reports from his home in Scott, La. A native of Layfayette, the 29-year-old performer's Creole accent is negligible, although it's still hard to follow his high-speed thoughts. "A lot of people wonder what the hell we're doing," he declares gleefully. "We got rock-guitar wailin,' accordion and funky bass lines all goin' at the same time. This is party music, you bet." Who Stole the Hot Sauce, Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band's second outing for Blind Pig Records, is a red-pepper-hot illustration of this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink musical style.

The inclusion of War's protofunk classic "Cisco Kid" delivers the first sure sign that Carrier's zydeco is specially outfitted for the dance floor. It would be stretching things to characterize "Cisco Kid" as "zydeco-ized"; rather, it is an intentionally close facsimile of the original. Carrier deploys his squeeze box as a rhythm instrument, doubling the harmonica line. At the very least, Carrier and his band capture the outlaw spirit of the tune. For skeptics still not convinced by Carrier's nervy revisionism, take a listen to his rendition of Pete Townshend's "Squeeze Box." It's a matter of conjecture as to whether Townshend's tune was a nod to zydeco or a dirty little Who ditty. In any case, it's probable that the song's sneaky double entendre is what caught Carrier's ear.

Carrier readily concedes that these cover tunes were recorded with rock radio in mind. Like some frustrated black performers whose music falls outside the purview of front-to-back cap rap, he blames the gangsta-ization of commercial radio for his neo-zydeco's lack of exposure. "Once they hear it, people just can't stop dancin' to our music." Carrier exclaims. "It just drives 'em crazy. Our music is for anyone from 5 to 75. Everyone likes it. You bet."

Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band play Friday (Nov. 22) at 8pm at JJ's Blues Club, 3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara. Call for ticket information. (408/243-6441)

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From the November 21-27, 1996 issue of Metro

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