Boozoo Chavis & the Magic Sounds | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Boozoo Chavis & the Magic Sounds


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Many of zydeco's most visible touring acts are profit-driven modernists, updating tradition to appeal to the lowest common denominator--i.e., cranking out zydeco versions of familiar pop tunes. Boozoo Chavis, on the other hand, is a veteran purist--his 1954 classic "Paper in My Shoe" predated the first Clifton Chenier recording by a year. In fact, if Chavis hadn't been so disgusted by the record business that he took a two-decade hiatus from it, it might've been he who achieved the late Chenier's legendary status. But since actively returning to performing in 1984 he's been making up for lost time. As his new album Hey Do Right! (Antone's/Discovery) proves, tradition doesn't necessarily preclude vitality. "Zydeco Lady" is a sly zydeco treatment of Johnnie Taylor's smash hit "Disco Lady," but even there Chavis avoids empty flash, and nowhere on the record do hard-rock guitars and thudding beats corrupt his tunes. Chavis's efficient accordion playing and raggedly soulful vocals are the bedrock of his music, both rhythmically and melodically, with the lean support of older son Charles on rub-board, the clean guitar lines of Guitar Thomas, the propulsive bass of June Barfield, and the swinging drumming of younger son Rellis. The band's energy, especially live, is infectious and Chavis is easily one of the most naturally charismatic figures his region has ever produced. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Boozoo Chavis photo by Raymond Pumilia.

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