CLIFTON CHENIER is to Louisiana's zydeco music what Hank Williams is to country music, what Bob Marley is to reggae and what John Lennon is to rock 'n' roll. Thus C. J. Chenier faced the same challenge that faced Hank Williams Jr., Ziggy Marley and Julian Lennon in trying to follow in a famous father's footsteps. C. J. has met that challenge more successfully than the other three sons, because he has never tried to duplicate or compete with his dad's fame.

With self-effacing grace, C. J. Chenier has turned his attention to the music and has mastered the essential ingredients of zydeco: the syncopated dance beat, the catchy accordion riffs and the soulful singing. The result is "Hot Rod," C. J.'s second album since his dad died and the best zydeco album of the year. This is gimmick-free traditional zydeco, where the whole band locks into a steady dance-floor groove and reinforces a simple but irresistible melodic hook. There are no wasted moves.

C. J. has matured into a most impressive accordionist, slipping in quicksilver runs between riffs, and into a most expressive singer, capable of a gutbucket blues like "Your Time to Cry," a hard-rocking shouter like "I Feel All Right" or a heartbreak ballad like "It's a Shame." C. J. wrote these three appealing numbers and seven others like them. The Red Hot Louisiana Band (which C. J. inherited from his father) plays with a bar-tested cohesion, especially on the blazing title tune, which was one of Clifton Chenier's catchiest novelty numbers.

C. J. CHENIER & THE RED HOT LOUISIANA BAND -- "Hot Rod" (Slash). Appearing Saturday at the Kennedy-Warren Ballroom.