THE LOUISIANA zydeco band, Terrance Simien & the Mallet Playboys, has been such a fixture on the roots-rock club circuit for the past five years that it's hard to believe that "Zydeco on the Bayou" is their debut album.
The album, produced by Louisiana saxophonist Dickie Landry, captures the excitement of Simien's live shows, which speed up the traditional zydeco rhythms and juice them up with blues-rock guitar licks. It may not be the best zydeco around, but it's probably the most accessible zydeco for non-Louisiana rock fans.
Simien hasn't mastered the intricate rhythms of zydeco as well as C.J. Chenier and Dopsie Jr., but like Buckwheat Zydeco, he has found a way to integrate pop elements without spoiling the swamp music's distinctive sound. "Zydeco on the Bayou" features pop harmony vocals, Appalachian gospel, rock guitar distortion, reggae rhythms and contemporary soul balladry.
These elements may pave the way into zydeco for the uninitiated, but they reduce the rewards once you arrive. When it comes to pure adrenaline, however, Simien simply outworks all the competition.
TERRANCE SIMIEN & THE MALLET PLAYBOYS -- "Zydeco on the Bayou" (Restless). Appearing Friday with Lucky 7 at the 9:30 club.