The preface to "Let The Good Times Roll" (Upbeat Books, 1997) points out that the best way to hear Zydeco (and Cajun) music is live, and wonders why there aren't more live recordings on the market. "Live At Slim's Y-Ki-Ki", the debut of Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band for the Shanachie label, goes some way to rectifying this imbalance. It was recorded at a five and a half hour post Zydeco festival concert recorded on Labor Day Saturday in 1998. The band played non-stop, although Keith Frank does acknowledge "...we did slow it down a couple of times..."! The album weighs in with seventy minutes of quality music that is guaranteed to get you moving.
If pedigree was an indicator of success, this album would be straight in at number one. The Soileau Band line-up included members of three famous Zydeco families. Alongside the three Frank dynasty members: Keith, Jennifer, and Brad, there's Joe Chavis, and Scott Ardoin. The other members are George "Lee" Attle and James "Chocolate" Ned. It's Keith who handles songwriting duties (11 of the 17 tracks), however.
For the most part, the album is pretty much unadulterated Zydeco. There are detectable reggae influences at times, however, mainly of "Catch a Fire" era Bob Marley and the Wailers. This is especially evident in the chopping guitar riff on "Co Fa," supplemented by Frank's dub echo call of "Et toi," and in the almost dub-like accordion playing on "Rising To The Top."
"Hey Pretty Baby (With Your Teeth So White)" gets my vote for simplest song of the year so far. The whole lyric is just "Hey Pretty Baby/With Your Teeth So White/I want to take you home with me tonight/I wonder what you use/Is it Crest or Colgate/Maybe Aquafresh/Well That's Just Great/." Even though that's all there is, the beat is irresistibly infectious, and it's hard to sit still in your seat.
Zydeco is made for dancing, and "Live at Slim's Y-Ki-Ki" is no exception. It should particularly appeal to those who like their Zydeco fairly pure. There's also enough elements of variety to appeal to the band's younger listeners too. Either way, "Live at Slim's Y-Ki-Ki" is a very good album, and shows why Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band featured highly in the National Zydeco Hall of Fame awards in 1998, and are a top draw on the Zydeco circuit in south Louisiana and East Texas.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.