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Friday, May 27, 2011

The New Iberians - Bon Temps Rouge

The New Iberians – Bon Temps Rouge
2008, Psych-Delta Records
When you think of zydeco music you think of New Orleans.  Bourbon Street, the Quarter and the roots of Dixieland are all wrapped up the zeitgeist of music, which is a musical patois that could be born nowhere else.  So finding the New Iberians practicing their wares from the home base in Oregon might surprise you.  The New Iberians formed from the detritus of 1990’s zydeco act Mumbo Gumbo.  The band’s sophomore album, Bon Temps Rouge, was named from a rant by an overly spirited MC who mis-pronounced Bons Temps Rouler (Let The Good Times Roll), but there’s nothing accidental about the music.
Bon Temps Rouge opens with a feisty cover of Fats Domino’s “My Girl Josephine” that mixes Zydeco and blues.  This is a high energy tune with Claes Almroth making an absolutely wonderful spectacle of himself on harmonica.  Evan Shlaes has a pleasant, down-home voice that works perfectly in this setting.  “Goin’ To The Levee” is a Dave Edmunds-inspired rock number that makes the most of Evan Shlaes piano work.  “Bon Temps Rouge” is a catchy zydeco number featuring a fun night on the town with a scheming gal that doesn’t end the way the story-teller might have hoped.  This is a classic tale that’s fun and highly danceable.
“Black Snake Blues” is a Clifton Chenier tune that sees Claes Almroth stepping up to the mic for a solid lead vocal surrounded by some dazzling vocal harmonies.  “Terry Anne” sees Evan Shlaes back on vocals in a tune that pays homage to the culinary arts and their role in love.  The musical blend here is rich, mixing early rock n roll, R&B and zydeco in an almost magical mix you have to hear to believe.  “Rock Island Line” is a catchy and fun Leadbelly cover that stays true to the original while offering a richly stylistic interpretation.  “Voulez-Vous Dancer?” (Do you want to dance?) is a Cajun take on the Bobby Freeman tune that’s a great deal of fun; a low-key but danceable interpretation with layered instrumentation.
“The Belmont Waltz” works in a bowed saw solo that is a treat, but is presented here as an almost comical musical work, ala Spike Jones.  Originally a ragtime piece, The New Iberians have taken this one to the woodshed and made something magical in the process.   “Voodoo Juice” is a bit of Texas two-step, ala ZZ Top, done with Zydeco instrumentation.  This tune is so out of the box that it will grab you by the collar and drag you along for the ride.  Once the novelty wears off, however, you’ll be amazed at the virtuosity of the group on this number.  “Hot Dog Stand” (Buck Owens) is an entertaining set-up for the finale, a jitterbug number that threatens to rip the roof off the album.  The New Iberians wrap things up with a zydeco take on “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash).  This is a solid cover, but perhaps the last two tracks should have been reversed in order, as “I Can See Clearly Now” is something of a letdown after “Hot Dog Stand”.
The New Iberians put in a solid effort on Bon Temps Rouge.  The blend of blues, rock and zydeco is novel, but in and of itself is quickly assimilated in the mind.  What makes The New Iberians intriguing is the level of musicianship apparent on Bon Temps Rouge.  You get the impression that this band could walk into any club, anywhere, of most any style, and be welcome on stage.  Bon Temps Rouge is worth spending some time on, but it’s really just an appetizer for a live show should you be lucky enough to attend one.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about The New Iberians at  Bon Temps Rouge is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

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