Join us on Wednesday, Sept. 4, for the annual end of season Record Exchange Party at Alive After Five featuring C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band. This free, all-ages concert on the Grove Plaza in Downtown Boise kicks off at 5 p.m. with Go Listen Boise opener Hillfolk Noir, one of the featured artists on the CD compilation In Our Town: Songs for Boise 150.
ABOUT C.J. CHENIER AND THE RED HOT LOUISIANA BAND
Clayton Joseph Chenier was born September 28, 1957 – the son of the great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. C.J.’s father was the first Creole musician to win a Grammy Award. C.J. spent his childhood in the tough tenement housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas. His earliest musical influences were an eclectic mix of funk, soul, jazz and Motown, and his first musical instruments were piano, tenor saxophone and flute. It wasn’t until his 21st birthday, after winning a scholarship and studying music at Texas Southern University, that C.J. first performed with his famous father and the legendary Red Hot Louisiana Band.
On the road, his father showed him how to front a world class touring band – teaching C.J. how to run the family business and how to develop his lifelong passion for music into a career. When Clifton died in 1987, his son adopted the Red Hot Louisiana Band and recorded his debut album for the great American independent label Arhoolie Records. As he told a journalist at the time, he does not try to imitate his father’s playing: “I play it the way I play it. All my father really told me was to do the best I could do with my own style.” In the following years, C.J. would record albums for Slash Records and the legendary Chicago label Alligator Records.
When Paul Simon recorded his 1990 album Rhythm of the Saints, he handpicked C.J. Chenier to play accordion (alongside Ringo Starr on drums), then asked him to join his “Born at the Right Time Tour”. A few years later C.J. showed up as a guest on the Gin Blossom’s New Miserable Experience album.
C.J.’s 1995 appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and CNN brought C.J.’s music to his widest audiences yet. But all this attention didn’t change his philosophy toward his music. “You go to a gig by a jazz band,” he says, “and everybody’s sitting down, sipping drinks. You play zydeco and you see shoes flying off. You can’t come to my show and stay unhappy all night long. You’re going to break a smile and stomp your foot before too long. This is happy music, and it makes you dance.”
Nowhere was this more evident than the band’s 1996 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where their raucous performance caught the attention of VH1, which featured Chenier in a segment on the event. Entertainment Weekly followed with a piece of their own. And a 1996 showcase at Austin’s SxSW Music Conference (as part of the Alligator Records 25th Anniversary event) swept the overflow crowd of music writers and fans at Antone’s into a massive dancing frenzy.
In the autumn of 2005, the delta region of the United States was pummeled twice by vicious hurricanes that left much of Louisiana and large sections of C.J.’s hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, decimated. In the aftermath of these floods, C.J. began writing and recording a collection of songs in a stark contrast to the upbeat nature of some of many his past recordings.
Inspired by Bob Dylan’s 1960’s collaboration with The Band, C.J. Chenier sought out an existing working band to back him during these sessions. Rounder recording artists The Tarbox Ramblers fit the bill with a combination of tight musical camaraderie from years of touring and a deep knowledge of American roots music history. Augmented by session pianist Joe Deleault, the musicians quickly rehearsed and recorded these songs in the cavernous Room A of Boston’s Q Division Studios in the autumn of 2005. Inspired by the 1950’s Rudy Gelder jazz recordings for Blue Note and Zydeco albums of Clifton Chenier, the songs were recorded live with everyone playing together in the studio with minimal overdubs.
In essence, Desperate Kingdom of Love is C.J.Chenier’s first solo album as a singer-songwriter. Harking back to the deep southern roots of Creole music, C.J. has recorded a collection of some of the most urgent and heartfelt songs of his career. He tapped deep into his father’s songbook starting with the smitten sing-along hit “Rosemary” to the barbed wire blues of “Ain’t No Need of Cryin’ (Everyday is the Same)” and haunting “Black Snake Blues”. The southern gothic images of the Hank Williams-penned “Lost on the River” and the devastating P.J. Harvey ballad “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” complete the somber canvas – a metaphor of the recent carnage in New Orleans.
C.J.’s latest album is Can’t Sit Down. Recorded live in one session at Rock Romano’s Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas, Can’t Sit Down is all about truth in advertising: give it a spin and watch your feet get to work whether you want them to or not. C.J. cut the album live in the studio quickly in order to capture the freshness—the energy—of the material. For that reason, he dispensed with a producer, opting to handle the task himself.
“I figured that nobody knows better what I want than I do,” he says. “Nobody knows better how I want my accordion to sound. Nobody knows better how I want my band to sound. So I decided to stop going with other people’s ears and start going with my own.”
The 11 tracks on Can’t Sit Down are among the most potent of C.J.’s long career, starting with the album-opening title track, written by Clifton. “I play that song pretty much how I played it with my daddy,” C.J. says. “I really liked it so I said, ‘OK, let’s try this one,’ and everybody fell right in. It just clicked. That’s a sign that something is a keeper, when everybody can fall in and it feels good.”
Alive After Five is made possible by sponsorship support, including: Bud Light, Boise Weekly, Today’s Channel 6, 94.9 The River, Idaho Business Review, ACHD Commuteride, The Idaho Lottery, Downtown Public Parking System, Pepsi, Sysco, BRJ Distributing, Odell Brewing Co, Sockeye Brewing, Kokanee, American Vintage Hard Tea, Idaho Central Credit Union, The Record Exchange, Boise Office Equipment, The Riverside Hotel and the Boise Centre.
Food will be available for sale each week from a downtown restaurant. For a full list of restaurants, go to the Alive After Five page on downtownboise.org.
Parking is available in the Downtown Public Parking Garages where the First Hour is Free. Bring a chair, and please no coolers or pets allowed in the Grove Plaza during the event. Should the event be cancelled due to bad weather, the band will play at Liquid 405 S. 8th Street.
The event is organized by the Downtown Boise Association (DBA) and is a fundraiser for downtown cleaning services, beautification projects and marketing. The Downtown Boise Association mission is to be the steward for the promotion and operation of Downtown Boise as an attractive, safe and vibrant place to work, shop, live and play. Alive After Five is a downtown marquee event that attracts thousands to downtown throughout the summer.
A full schedule of bands with links to the band websites and weekly food vendors can be found online at downtownboise.org.