Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers
Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar
Young accordion gun Lil' Brian Terry started his band's set with several shout-outs to Creole-rich cities in Southeast Texas and Louisiana: New Orleans, Lafayette, Houston, Baton Rouge, and so on. Then someone shouted, "What about Houma?" "Oh yeah," replied Brian. "We got Houma in the house!" Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar is not the first place you'd expect to have Houma in the house, but damned if Brian and his Zydeco Travelers didn't evoke swinging dance-hall images of that hard-to-reach hamlet beneath New Orleans. Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers hail from Barrett Station, Texas ("B.S.T."), a town east of Houston just outside Baytown. Brian was first exposed to zydeco by none other than Buckwheat Zydeco (producer of the band's latest disc, Funky Nation
), but his is a more modern variation of the form that mixes in a heavy dose of party funk along with echoes of hip-hop. Anyone who's worried that zydeco might fade away as the masters got up in years should check out the fresh paint job the Zydeco Travelers give to the genre. From the moment they started rollin' with "Party," the sardine-packed crowd was moving like it was after midnight in a pure, uninhibited manner normally attributable to several adult beverages. And it was only 9:00! Lil' Brian works the accordion in a funky, flowing manner not unlike the way Stevie Ray Vaughan worked the guitar. He locks deep into the groove and plays it until the audience is coaxed into hosannas. But instead of making the spasmo-contorto face of a rock guitarist deep in the passionate throes of solo-dom, Brian looked out at the crowd and smiled at people. Meanwhile, his brother, guitarist Patrick "Heavy P" Terry, was pumping out a JBs/P-Funk rhythm that kept the pelvises undulating. The band struck a particularly resounding chord with "Get Up on That Zydeco," a Creole country interpolation of James Brown's "Sex Machine." If the Zydeco Travelers have a fault, it may be that their "Z-Funk" hybrid isn't quite fully developed. Their slow, introspective number "Black Butterfly" seemed to lose a bit of the crowd, including one young lady standing behind me who said, "The zydeco is cool, but their other stuff sucks." Nevertheless, only the crustiest of curmudgeons would argue that they're not onto something. The tight, energetic quintet can win the parents with the old-school zydeco and the kids with the Dirty South funk. Just imagine what might happen if Lil' Brian hooked up with Lil' Troy and his Short Stop Records crew. H-Town would never be the same again.