STANLEY "BUCKWHEAT" DURAL is hardly zydeco's most traditional exponent. But his dynamic live performances and soul-drenched version of the dance music of South Louisiana's black population has rendered him zydeco's top star. Like most zydeco performers, Buckwheat's recordings have been issued by small labels catering to fans of the music. However, Island Records, the same label that internationalized reggae and tried to do the same for D.C.'s go-go sound, has now released Buckwheat's "On a Night Like This," a somewhat erratic stab at broadening Buckwheat's and zydeco's audience.
The most successful songs here are those that stick closest to the Afro-Caribbean syncopation and crazy dance-floor drive. Both "Ma 'tit Fille" and the instrumental "Buckwheat's Special" showcase the irresistible interplay of drummer Nat Jolivette and rub-board player Elijah Cudges. Similarly, on Clifton Chenier's "Hot Tamale Baby," the band kicks up a ferocious rhythmic undertow while Buckwheat lays on a dazzling string of accordion improvisations.
It is on the covers of the Blasters' "Marie Marie" and Bob Dylan's "On a Night Like This" that Buckwheat Zydeco loses momentum. By trying to render popular songs in a somewhat conventional fashion, Buckwheat throws a harness on a band that is at its best with just a groove to plow into myriad powerful rhythmic variations.
BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO --
"On a Night Like This" (Island 90622). Appearing Sunday at the Twist and Shout Club in the Bethesda American Legion Hall.