Buckwheat Zydeco – Lay Your Burden Down

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Although in some respects Lay Your Burden Down is exactly the kind of record one would expect from Buckwheat Zydeco (Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr.) at this point — upbeat zydeco dance numbers — it also has some new and interesting wrinkles, and it’s obvious that Dural is reaching for more on this wonderful outing. First, he has reunited with producer Steve Berlin, who produced Dural’s strong 1994 album Five Card Stud. And Dural has chosen the songs for this set carefully, bringing in five new original compositions and filling things out with inspired covers of Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks,” Bruce Springsteen’s little-known “Back in Your Arms,” Gov’t Mule’s “Lay Your Burden Down,” Captain Beefheart’s “Too Much Time,” and Jimmy Cliff’s “Let Your Yeah Be Yeah,” all of which are re-imagined brilliantly. Yeah, there is still plenty of zydeco accordion here, and this is still very much a zydeco record, but it reaches further and deeper toward being a larger musical statement, and Lay Your Burden Down ends up being Dural’s most accomplished and mature album yet, moving from start to finish like everything belongs together. Nothing misses its mark, and several tracks do so much more than that, including the stomping take on “Levee” that opens this set, the breezy and bouncy reggae-zydeco hybrid version of “Let Your Yeah Be Yeah,” (which somehow manages to sound even more upbeat than Cliff’s original — which was pretty upbeat already), and the startling and beautiful “Too Much Time,” which redirects Beefheart’s original from the 1972 album Clear Spot into a gorgeous, emotionally fulfilling ballad. Buckwheat Zydeco has always been fun, a zydeco dance band guaranteed to get your feet moving, and Dural’s live shows are sweaty, funky dance-a-thons, but with Lay Your Burden Down, he has given us something else again, an album that works both at the dance party and still rings clear the next day when maybe it’s time to dig deeper and do a little thinking. It’s the best kind of musical synthesis.

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