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April 1997

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Li'l Brian & the Zydeco Travelers
Z-funk
Rounder Records

Li'l Brian album coverThe liner notes to Z-funk proclaim that "this is not your father’s zydeco." Li’l Brian & the Zydeco Travelers take zydeco to a new level with their second Rounder album. This young, energetic band from Houston has one foot firmly rooted in traditional zydeco, with the other moving furiously to a rap, hip hop and funk beat. It’s a refreshing sound.

The disk kicks off with an upbeat tribute to their hometown in "H-town Zydeco," featuring excellent funky guitar by Patrick "Heavy P" Terry. Later, Li’l Brian begins "Bad Time Woman" with a heavy funk sound, then rips into a monstrous accordion solo as fiery as you’d hear from many of the masters on the scene today. The band straddles the musical line again on the title cut, which is a zydeco rap tribute to their main inspirations Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. Gangsta’ zydeco, perhaps?

One of my favorite tunes is the uptempo "I Don’t Know Why." Besides some impassioned singing from Li’l Brian, Patrick Terry throws in a heavy blues guitar riff. The band gets real funky and playful on James Brown’s "Back Up And Try It Again." A special dance mix of this cut is repeated to close the album. If you yearn for something closer to a straight zydeco number, then check out the original driving instrumental number "Tang The Hump" and the slow bluesy cover of Clifton Chenier’s "You Got Me Crying." The Zydeco Travelers shift gears again on the rhythmic "Keeping Me Out Of The Storm," which features a heavy reggae backbeat.

Z-funk is an impressive follow-up to Li’l Brian’s debut CD, Fresh. With most of the band only in their early 20’s, these guys are going to be a force on the national music scene for many, many years.

- Bill Mitchell

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