You can't find a better bloodline in zydeco than the one posessed by C.J. Chenier. His late legendary father, Clifton, is in large part the reason the Creole folk form is a living, breathing, butt-shaking force outside of southwest Louisiana. Back in the 1950s, the senior Chenier started mixing the zydeco accordion tradition with blues and R&B sounds of the day, a method modernized and practiced by almost every present-day zydeco outfit. Recording first regionally and then for the Specialty and Chess labels, Clifton connected during the '60s with the up-and-coming folk and blues crowds by way of a release for Arhoolie Records, Louisiana Blues and Zydeco
, and the Red Hot Louisiana Band went nonregional for real.
Originally looking for a career in jazz, C.J. joined the band in the late '70s, first on sax and, after his father's death in 1987, taking over on accordion. As a leader, he has recorded primarily for the Alligator label. While abounding in solid dance-crowd material, his 2001 release Step It Up! ironically shows more of a slant toward tradition than the more typical funked-up or pop-crossover zydeco discs coming out these days.