Picks and Pans Review: Where There's Smoke There's Fire

updated 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Buckwheat Zydeco

Both these veterans of Louisiana zydeco and Cajun music prove how malleable the genres are. Richard brings the musical kitchen sink with him on his major-label debut, infusing his two-step shuffle style with pop, R&B and soul. Buckwheat, by now an old-timer in the mainstream, just keeps rolling along with no-frills blues rock pumped up with peppy accordion riffs.

Versatility, however, is Richard's strength, while Buck (Stanley Dural Jr.) plays closer to the vest. Richard comes at you like a Cajun John Hiatt on "Who Stole My Monkey." He kicks off the zydeco show with the tasty two-step "My Nanette" and recalls his youth on "No French, No More," when Cajun schoolchildren were forbidden to speak their native tongue. (The policy was enforced, officially and later by parents, until the late '60s.) The slightly maudlin "Give Me Back My Wings" sounds like a song that dropped out of the Beaches sound track. But it also gives Richard a chance to show off some vocal range.

Dural rebounds from his fiat 1988 release, Taking It Home, with the help of Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, sitting in as producer and guitarist. On Dural's original tunes, Hidalgo keeps things tight, and "We're Having a Party" might even be called L.A. zydefunk. He has less luck on the cover songs, including a limp "Beast of Burden."

By the time Dural winds down with the last-call ditty, "It's Getting Late," he has lived up to his album's title. Dural/Buckwheat still reigns as zydeco king. But watch your back, Buck. Richard may be the Buster Douglas of the Bayou. (Richard, A&M; Buckwheat, Island)

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