Anyone who has heard Lil' Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers perform live knows that they represent the "New Wave" of zydeco performers, combining traditional zydeco music with more modern black sounds including rhythm & blues, soul and funk. Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers hail from Barrett Station, Texas (BST) a small town on the fringe of the Houston Metropolitan area and in the heart of East Texas zydeco country. The 27 year old Terry plays accordion and has learned his craft from the hands of the zydeco master, Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr. (Buckwheat Zydeco). Thanks in part to his mentor, Lil' Brian embraces the traditional zydeco style while seeking to modernize it for a new audience of zydeco acolytes.
"Funky Nation" is the third recording by Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers and the first on Buckwheat Dural's own label, Tomorrow Records. Even better, Dural and his associate, Ted Fox, are the producers of the new CD. With this background, the interest in "Funky Nation" should be high, given the clear blessing from the "Godfather of Zydeco" himself.
The CD opens with the seriously funk laced title track, "Funky Nation," providing a knock out blow to zydeco lovers with the first punch. The funk sound continues with the next two songs, "Makin' Green" and "Get On Up On That Zydeco," before finally letting up on the soulful "Question". Brian Terry's use of the according as an instrument of funk is interesting and appealing, providing a distinctive sound that makes you want to get up and dance. The rest of the band , Patrick "Heavy I" Terry (guitar), Emerson "Funky E" Jackson (bass), Mandrell Rideau (rubboard) and Albert "Tony" Stewart (drums), provide strong support for Lil' Brian, laying down a tight sound that helps propel the band through each of the twelve original tunes. All of the songs credit Brian and Patrick Terry as the primary songwriters, with some assistance on three songs by Vernice Stribling ("Question"), Mandrell Rideau ("Summer Girl") and Zydeco Godfather, Stanley "Buckwheat Dural, Jr. ("Magnolia").
Highlights of the CD include the opening "Funky Nation," with its heavy funk bass line; the romantic "Summer Girl"; "Thigh Drivin'" a song that starts as a straight up zydeco two-step, offers a brief funk break and returns to the basic zydeco format; "Uncle Cliff," a good straight up zydeco instrumental that is guaranteed to make you want to get up and dance; and "Party," which emphasizes the need for some serious zydeco partying "from BST (Barrett Station) to H-Town (Houston)."
The grand finale is "Magnolia," a definite zydeco dancer's dream song, where Brian and Patrick Terry teamed up with Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Jr. to write "Magnolia," a song that allows the purveyors of the best of the two zydeco worlds to pool their talents with notable success. It is a fitting end to a fine effort by Lil' Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers.
If you get a chance to see Lil' Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers live, take it! Until then buy a copy of "Funky Nation" and find out what you have to look forward to when you see them.
"Funky Nation" is due to be released on February 22, 2000. Check Lil' Brian's website at www.lilbrian.com for updates.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.