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Make this man famous

The Big Squeeze
The Big Squeeze
By C.J. Chenier

Alligator Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the February 14, 1997 issue of the North County Times.

In a just world, C.J. Chenier would be a household name, no a par in fame and fortune with no-talent poseurs like Mariah Carey or Michael Bolton. IN a just world, songs like "Cheatin' on the Man You're Cheatin' With" and "Au Contraire, Mon Frere" would be Top 10 hits, in regular rotation on every pop radio station in the land.

It is, of course – as Cher's continuing fame and popularity amply illustrate – not a fair world. And so C.J. Chenier, son of zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier and leader of his late father's Red Hot Louisiana Band, toils in dives, sells his records by the tens of thousands instead of millions, and gets radio play mostly on late-night blues specialty shows on college stations.

And that's our loss even more than his. While he's denied the big bucks that would rightly be his were such things decided on talent and good taste, at least he gets to listen to some top-notch music every night playing with his band. We, of course, are stuck listening to the somnambulist sounds of Kenny G instead of dancing our buns off to Chenier's rollicking Louisiana swamp blues. And when he gets his band rocking out, leading that sweet zydeco with his squeezebox, with an honest-to-God washboard pounding out that rhythm behind him, with those three guitarists hammering out a staccato beat ... well, it sure ain't Lawrence Welk, you know?