It's probably an overused expression, but it's difficult to avoid the label of "living legend" when describing someone like Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr. The Louisiana native, whose stage name is also the name of his group — Buckwheat Zydeco — is still going strong after more than four decades of bringing his distinctive music to fans everywhere. His newest album, Lay Your Burden Down, is now out on the Alligator Records label and it's one of his best.
Born and raised in South Louisiana, "Buckwheat" Dural picked up his nickname because his hairstyle reminded friends of the Our Gang character, but his interest in zydeco didn't come along until later. He was a keyboard prodigy who leaned toward R&B in his younger years, but while on tour with the iconic Clifton Chenier he realized he'd found his true calling. He became known as Buckwheat Zydeco, and you know the rest.
What's very special about his new album is not that it includes the kind of driving zydeco music that he's made famous — although it does — but that it also presents fans with something a little different. For one thing, he's kicked up the funk a notch, and for another, he's given his unique treatment to some songs from surprising sources. A good example of the latter would be his sparkling and surprisingly sweet version of one of Springsteen's lesser-known pieces, "Back in Your Arms." Others would be Captain Beefheart's "Too Much Time," and a reggae-flavored treat that still has a taste of zydeco, Jimmy Cliff's "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah."
Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks" is given a lively updating too, but don't make the mistake of thinking zydeco is forgotten on this album. Among the eleven tracks are several larrupin' good tunes that will have your feet itchin' to hit the dance floor. The bouncing beat of "Time Goes By" makes for a good listen, but the absolute best for me was "Throw Me Something, Mister." It transported me back to New Orleans at it's best.
An outstanding new collection from Buckwheat Zydeco — highly recommended.