Terrance Simien sometimes sounds as if he's trying to do for zydeco what the Nevilles have done for New Orleans R & B: create a universal music from an indigenous--albeit heavily commercialized--African American art form. Simien's wheezing, melodic accordion provides his most consistent acknowledgment of roots, and his rhythms often retain zydeco's hiccupy backwoods danceability. But his sound is a rich gumbo of funky references to everything from urban contemporary to reggae to hi-life to hip-hop. Onstage the strutting, self-confident Simien evokes zydeco's traditional party atmosphere, and he's usually managed to assemble bands with both the chops and the sense of irony to keep all that genre jumping from becoming too heavy-handed. The result is an agreeable and sometimes explosive fusion, although I often wish he'd relax, tone down the synths and the portentous lyrics, and allow the music to speak for itself. All in all, though, he's about as much fun as you can have outside of Louisiana and still get home in one piece. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. Sunday, 9 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 549-7700.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brian Ashley White.