C.J. Chenier

Don't look now, but C.J. Chenier just might be shaping up into zydeco's answer to late-period Johnny Cash. The title track of his sophisticated, mournful new CD, The Desperate Kingdom of Love, is an amazingly fleshed out cover of what was once a nearly hidden song from P.J. Harvey's underappreciated 2004 Uh Huh Her album. However, far from some Rubin-esque hipster cash-in (uhhh, sorry), the track stands as a steadfast acknowledgement of pain and a statement of resolve in the face of devastation (Chenier's Port Arthur home was brutally slammed last hurricane season). As the Tarbox Ramblers rumble majestically beneath Chenier, he intones Harvey's stoic lament with impeccable, understated soul: "At the end of this burning world / You'll stand proud, face upheld / And I'll follow you, into heaven or hell." The rest of the disc is considerably more upbeat, including covers of songs by Hank Williams Sr. and Van Morrison, but there's no mistaking that this is an artist in the process of reinventing himself.


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