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November 07, 1990 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-07

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Wednesday, November 7, 1990

The Michigan Daily

Page 7

Cray helps the blues survive

4o Zydeco
by Andrew J. Cahn
"WX hen I first played this accor-
dion, the younger generation thought
[it] was for the older generation; I
say it's not so, and to prove it, what
I did was mix my musical back-
ground with my father's. It's alright
;e"be traditional, but I wouldn't be
pliying it if I couldn't share it with
all generations."
- That is the basic philosophy be-
hind Buckwheat Zydeco's career. If
hd strictly played traditional zydeco,
thb only people he would appeal to
ark the older residents of Southwest
Louisiana and a few Yankee
enthusiasts who would have trouble
convincing their peers that this
*&ould good stuff. Instead,
B13ckwheat adds a semi-mainstream
robk feel to many of his songs, and
does not perform many in French, as
his musical ancestors did.
By mixing his musical back-
ground with that of his father's gen-
erotion, he has created a sound which
he hopes will appeal to the greatest
number of listeners. The presence of
e accordion and the scrubboard still
lace Buckwheat on the fringe of
popular music, but in terms of
zydeco, he is an enormous success.
One reason for his success is a
New Orleans culture revival which
has been taking place since the early
'80s. This revival has also helped
the careers of the Neville Brothers,
the Radiators and the Dirty Dozen
Brass Band. Another factor in
*3uckwheat's success is the cover
tunes he has performed over the last
few years, including Bob Dylan's
"On a Night Like This," Eric
Clapton's "Why Does Love Have to
Be So Sad" and, on the latest release,

by Brian Jarvinen
Last August, as I'm sure most of
you know,legendary guitarist Stevie
Ray Vaughn was killed in a heli-
copter crash. Since then I've heard
countless sentiments such as "the
blues will never be the same," or
"will the blues ever recover from
this?" While Vaughn was one of the
best in the field and will be missed
by all, he didn't carry the blues
through the '80s alone. One of the
worst aspects of the tragedy was that
it occurred immediately after a con-
cert featuring the combined talents of
Vaughn, Eric Clapton (who is also
but one guitarist in a vast field of
talent) and Robert Cray, who is ap-
pearing in Ann Arbor tonight after a
long absence from local stages.
While we'll never get to see that
combintion of hot players again,
Cray is fortunately still with us.
Robert Cray began playing music
on the west coast, appearing
constantly in small clubs. His bass

player from this period, Richard
Cousins, still plays with him today.
During this time Cray somehow
ended up on film, as a member of
Otis Day and the Knights in the film
every college student has seen, Ani-
mal House. Cray's reputation as a
player spread by word of mouth, and
by his wowing crowds at blues fes-
tivals. His first album, Who's Been
Talkin', featured Cray's versions of
many blues standards, including
"Too Many Cooks (Are Gonna
Spoil the Stew)."
What really got Cray's career
going was his second record, Bad
Influence, which included two
songs, "Phone Booth," and the title
track, which have since been covered
by all kinds of artists, including
Clapton. "Phone Booth" revealed a
new blues artist with the requisite
guitar skills; but the song was no-
ticeable because of the wrenchingly
desperate way Cray sang, "I'm in a
phone booth baby/ and I just spent

There's no one else in the band name
fortunate one," Buckwheat says.
the Rolling Stones' "Beast of
Burden." Buckwheat says he feels
that, instead of riding on the coat-
tails of another act's success, he
should add what he learrns from
them to his own style.
"...I don't agree with any artist
[who takes] a song that's very much
prepared and good and misuses the
song or takes away from [it],"
Buckwheat explains. "If you can't
put anything into that song, don't do
it. It's better left alone."
In addition, he says, "You put on
the radio, you hear all types of mu-
sic, but you don't hear zydeco. So
what I'm doin' is to take these cover
tunes that people have heard and
went crazy about, and I say 'here's
for you; here's fifty percent' That's
the only way it can be done because
that's the only way it can be played
on the radio."
A zydeco purist may say that
Buckwheat is selling out, but what
must be taken into consideration is
that he has not always been an ac-
cordion player. "I did a lot of
Funkadelic and other things like+
that," he says.
"As a matter of fact, I played or-
gan from the age of nine until 1979
when I started [in the Ils Sont Partis
Band] I had never played accordion
before in my life."

ad Spanky or Alfalfa. "I'm the only
As of right now, he is the most
popular Creole performer, but he
feels that zydeco will continue to
grow even if he were not part of the
scene. He says this is because "it's
gettin' out there now and more
people have heard the music than
just the people down in Southwest
Louisiana. Once the music was kept
[there] for family entertainment, but
now accordion players are going
national and international."
Because of his new success,
Buckwheat can no longer stick to
playing the small dance halls down
on the bayou. Those who have ever
seen a show at Hill know that there
is really not much room to really get
down. Due to the nature of
Buckwheat's music, it is a surprise
that the change in atmosphere does
not bother him. "I like being closer
to the audience, where I can reach
off-stage, shake somebody's hand
and say 'hey man, you havin' fun?"'
he says.
"But I'm happy performing any-
where - where there's two people
or two thousand. As long as you're
happy and got a smile on your face,
I'm ready to roll."
tonight at Hill Auditorium.

my last dime."
Cray has said in countless
interviews, including one in Guitar
Player, "We've always played the
blues, and rhythm and blues tunes."
Cray's smooth, soulful voice allows
him to do this. He has admitted that
he is as much influenced by Clapton
and the Chicago blues artists who
recorded for Chess, as artists like
Otis Redding, Al Green and Aretha
Franklin who recorded for Stax/Volt
in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Al-
abama. And his latest interview re-
veals that the first record he ever pur-
chased was Jimi Hendrix's Are You
Since Cray's beginnings on the
club circuit he has become an in-
ternational star, playing with many
of his heroes, including John Lee
Hooker, who Cray played with on a
new single. His new album, Mid-
night Stroll, includes the two mem-
bers of the Memphis Horns, who
will play with Cray tonight, and
may well feature the best keyboard
sounds on any of his records to date,
thanks to some tasteful Hammond
B-3 organ playing by Jimmy Pugh.
Robert Cray is probably the most
soulful blues player alive today.
Clapton is technically brilliant, but
he can't touch the emotion that is
conveyed by the combination of
Cray's singing and playing. But no
one person is the blues. The
popularity of blues music may wax
and wane on the charts, but as long
as humans have sex and they
understand the capabilities of a vi-
brating string, this musical forin
will survive.
ROBERT CRAY is playing tonight at
Hill Auditorium with BUCK-
WHEAT ZYDECO opening. The
show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are
available at all Ticketmaster out-
lets for $18.S0.

Robert Cray and the members of his band may be smiling here but they
have proven countless times that they know the meaning of the blues.

An eggstatic experience in dramatic dance

..g~pp . %(j: :": :;::%'t#;
eeaafk jp4 e4 j(e[[ k: :;X , t. .":.

by Elizabeth Lenhard
'Hello? New-Age hip spirituality
"Hi. I need some help. I've tried
yoga, burning incense, crystals, I
even tried tofu. But I just can't seem
to reach that high level of con-
sciousness I've been hearing about.
Is there anything you can do to help
an ecologically-aware and spiritually-
am bitious guy like me? Please?"
* "Well sir, depending on how you
feel about large eggs, we may have
something for you."
"As long as it doesn't taste like
bean curd, I'll try anything once.
What have you got?"
"Well, it's the latest rage for con-
tenporary art connoisseurs. It takes
years to master, but doesn't look
like it, and if you can stick with it,
od may be able to overcome the
oistance between yourself and the
material world. It's called Butoh and
you can see a demonstration of this
mysterious art form at the Michigan
Theater tonight and Thursday when
Sankai Juku performs Unetsu."
"Hmm, sounds challenging."
"It certainly is. Any intense and
introspective display of grotesque
and convulsive body language in the
f earch of the primordial symbolism
'n the subconscious would be. Espe-
cially when you market it as enter-
tainment and travel all over the
wprld performing it."
"Can you tell me what's re-
"F or this group, the requirements

are quite interesting. All you have to
do is shave your head, put on a loin-
cloth, and cover your entire body
with rice powder. This will trans-
form your physicality into a sym-
bolic blank page through which your
movements are the words you com-
municate. At times, you may drape
your body in a skeletal woven gar-
ment and crouch under a shower of
sand. At other times you may bal-
ance a large egg upon your red-
stained fingertips as a waterfall cas-
cades over you."
"I'm not sure if I really under-
stand the meaning of this Butoh."

"Well, Sankai Juku's symbolic
movements may not easy to under-
stand because they represent artistic
director Ushio Amagatsu's interpre-
tation of ancient Japanese mytholog-
ical culture. While the crouched po-
sitions, pained facial expressions and
chaotic movements characterized by
Unetsu (and don't forget that egg,
which, along with the shallow pond
that the five men dance in, domi-
nates the performance) is far removed
from Western culture. But the
movements, which are a combina-
tion of eerie theatricality and modern
See EGG, Page 8




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