IN POP MUSIC circles, Louisiana's Rockin' Dopsie is best known (if he's known at all) for his cameo appearance on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album.
But zydeco zealots as well as a lot of r&b fans first got to know Dopsie (pronounced Doop-see) through his own recordings. His latest album, "Crowned Prince of Zydeco" offers the uninitiated a rollicking introduction to Dopsie's accordion-driven dance music and r&b roots.
After opening with D.L. Menard's tune, "The Back Door," which is treated to an infectious zydeco arrangement, complete with wheezing accordion chords, jangling rub-board rhythms and a trailing sax, Dopsie and his band, the Twisters, turn back the clock with the rhymthically insistent and utterly danceable "Old Time Zydeco." Then he moves into more familiar r&b turf, singing in French a faithful rendition of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and, in English, Joe Turner's "Flip, Flop and Fly."
As a young musician, Dopsie cut his teeth on these songs, and he sings them with a natural ease and authority. But his vocals pale when compared to the band's overall sound. In fact, when the group cuts loose on "Crazy 'bout That Married Woman" with John Hart's brawny old-fashioned sax cutting across the clangorous rhythms, or the band uncorks the raucous "Hey, Hey, Hey" or the playful "Zyde-cool," it's all you can do to keep your feet still.
Another r&b album of note is the Nighthawks' "Live in Europe," recorded in Germany in 1986. One hesitates to call this album the band's swan song; groups that have been together as long as these guys do have a way of reuniting. But if this is the last recording from the band that featured Jim Thackery on guitar, it's a classy exit. Thackery is in top form, particularly on the brooding ballad "Black Night"; Mark Wenner not only plays searing harmonica as usual, but also fashions mournful cello-toned runs here and there; and bassist Jan Zukowski and drummer Pete Ragusa keep the beat up front and focused. Ragusa is also responsible for one of the album's strongest vocals, during a vibrant rendition of "Save That Dress."
ROCKIN' DOPSIE AND THE TWISTERS --
"Crowned Prince of Zydeco" (Maison de Soul LP 1020). Appearing with the Uptown Rhythm Kings Saturday night at the Greenbelt Armory, 7100 Greenbelt Rd.
THE NIGHTHAWKS --
"Live in Europe" (Varrick VR 033). Appearing Sunday at the Twist and Shout club at the Bethesda American Legion.