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Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers

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BEAU JOCQUE & THE ZYDECO HI-ROLLERS

During the zydeco craze prompted by The Big Easy nearly a decade ago, the music reached new audiences that in many ways it has managed to maintain. As popularity and record sales beckoned, most zydeco bands feverishly attempted to expand their repertoire in search of that elusive crossover appeal; but whereas most of these acts simply watered down their exuberance with rock flash and pop schmaltz, accordionist and bandleader Beau Jocque has pulled off the trick with aplomb. As his most recent album Gonna Take You Downtown (Rounder) amply demonstrates, he's pumped up his zydeco with the energy of rock, somehow incorporating that style's forceful backbeat without letting it dominate. When guitarist Russell "Sly" Dorion lays down a searing blues-rock lead on a cover of Clifton Chenier's "I'm on the Wonder" he carefully eschews crowd-pleasing hysterics in favor of a considered urgency; the group likewise retains zydeco's essential buoyancy on covers of War's "Cisco Kid" and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (though the latter does feature an unfortunate synth solo). But between Jocque's spirited originals, blustery accordion playing, and commanding vocal style (which recalls the gutbucket roar of Howlin' Wolf) it's clear that he deeply understands southern Louisiana culture, and he not only covers the region's zydeco masters (Chenier and Boozoo Chavis), but even pulls off a version of Cajun great D.L. Menard's "The Back Door." If you think all zydeco sounds the same--well, I know where you're coming from, but Beau Jocque is one guy who could change your mind. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Jean Hangarter.

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