Boozoo Chavis, Zydeco Trail Ride

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Zydeco Trail Ride

Boozoo Chavis
Who made astounding zydeco that’s raw and trancey? Boozoo, that’s who!

Along with Clifton Chenier, the irascible Boozoo was zydeco's most influential accordionist. His 1954 "Paper in My Shoe" (remade here) reportedly sold 130,000 copies, making it zydeco's biggest hit until Rockin 'Sidney's "My Toot Toot" in 1985, which is about when Boozoo returned to action after a twenty-year layoff. He's sort of the John Lee Hooker of his genre — stone country, with a propulsive beat and endless vamping, casually dropping or adding bars, changing chords in all the "wrong" places, lacing his records with farm-animal cries, singing in a voice that itself had lots of barnyard gravel in it. He stripped zydeco down to its essentials, and the sound was mesmerizing.