August 2006

C.J. Chenier - The Desperate Kingdom of Love
World Village Records 468041
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

This fourth album from Texas-born C.J. Chenier is unlike his typical, rocking Cajun romps. Recording one short month after last summer’s devastating Hurricane Katrina, Chenier put heart, soul, and sorrow into this release, issuing a more blues-fueled album than one might expect from the "crown prince of zydeco." Chenier’s instrumentation throughout the album is impressive, showing he is equally adept at playing the accordion, Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes, or washboard. His band, the Fry Pharmacists, also accommodates the wide range of styles and influences throughout the album with skill and technique. The result is a mature album, peppered with songs of introspection, reflection, and loss.

The opening song and title track, "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" (written by P.J. Harvey), is the best on the album and sets a weighty mood. Other covers include Van Morrison’s "Comfort You," and Hank Williams’s lonesome ballad "Lost on the River." Chenier pays tribute to his father, zydeco-great Clifton Chenier, by re-recording four of his compositions, including "Bogalusa Boogie," an instrumental tune that he dedicates to the memory of blues legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, who died days after his New Orleans home was destroyed by Katrina.

Chenier’s hometown of Port Arthur, TX was hit hard by the hurricane as well, and the album serves as a dedication to all of those whose lives were affected by the catastrophe. Despite the circumstances, Chenier’s love for his roots and music shines through. A lively Cajun spirit is ever-present, even in the wake of the flood.