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World Music CD Reviews North American

C.J. Chenier

By Matt Cibula
Published March 16, 2007

The Desperate Kingdom of Love
World Village 468041

It’s disarming, and a little misleading, to hear zydeco man C.J. Chenier leading off his first post-Katrina album with a P.J. Harvey song. It’s not a bad reading, but the song’s overheated imagery is very much at odds with the rest of the album. Chenier seems much more at home when he’s asking his baby to come back home (which he does twice here) or kicking her out (ditto), or calling her a “Finger Lickin’ Chicken.” His accordion playing gets the job done without the flash of a Buckwheat Zydeco. But Chenier’s voice is the real star here: He gets sexy on “Learning To Live,” gritty on a cover of his father Clifton’s zen classic “Black Snake Blues,” and raucous on “Who’s Cheatin’ Who?” In the devastating slow-jam finale, Van Morrison’s “Comfort You,” he loads all of poor lost New Orleans on his back and walks off into the sunset.