[Courtesy of Tipitina’s Record Club]

Clifton Chenier – ‘Live At Tipitina's’ Album Review

10:00 January 29, 2024
By: Jeffrey Sladkus

The King of Zydeco

On June 7, 1980, on what I imagine was a hot and steamy summer night in New Orleans, Clifton Chenier and his Red Hot Louisianna Band treated those who were lucky enough to venture to Tipitina's that night to an unforgettable performance.

Clifton—the undisputed King of Zydeco—was accompanied by a groundbreaking group that included Sonny Landreth (the first white member of the band) on guitar, C.J. Chenier (Clifton's son) on saxophone, and Cleveland Chenier (Clifton's older brother) on the frottoir (or more commonly known as the Zydeco rub-board), which was invented by Clifton and Cleveland while they grew up sharecropping in rural St. Landry Parish.

This 40-year-old soundboard recording, entitled Live at Tipitina's, showcases Clifton at the peak of his powers and features eight tracks of blistering blues-infused Zydeco goodness. Separate and apart from Clifton's Grammy-level vocals and accordion skills, the tracks showcase Sonny Landreth's swampy, slide guitar genius, as well as C.J.'s growing proficiency on the saxophone resulting from his apprenticeship with John Hart, whose saxophone artistry made indispensable contributions to the Red Hot's sound captured on numerous recordings.

When I say there is not a bad track on this album, it's a reflection of my sincere admiration for Clifton and the profound effect he had on bringing Zydeco music to mainstream society.

This record is one of the latest releases from the Tipitina's Record Club where the curators are clearly expending significant time and effort to make these high quality and important recordings accessible. For those interested, I encourage you to check out the Tipitina's Record Club Podcast where the curators host special guests to discuss the story behind the artists and the releases—and in the case of this album—some really special and unique insight provided by C.J. and Sonny regarding their experiences playing with Clifton.

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