C.J. Chenier talks a lot about energy. Ask him why he recorded a certain song and he’ll tell you he likes the energy of it. Why does he love zydeco music? It’s the energy. And so it should come as no surprise that C.J.’s new album, Can’t Sit Down (World Village, Street Date – September 13, 2011) is so jam-packed with energy it could power a small city!
Recorded live in one session at Rock Romano’s Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas, Can’t Sit Down is all about truth in advertising: give it a spin and watch your feet get to work whether you want them to or not. C.J.—whose father was the late Clifton Chenier, perhaps the most celebrated zydeco musician in the genre’s history—cut the album live in the studio quickly in order to capture the freshness—the energy— of the material. For that reason, he dispensed with a producer, opting to handle the task himself.
“I figured that nobody knows better what I want than I do,” he says. “Nobody knows better how I want my accordion to sound. Nobody knows better how I want my band to sound. So I decided to stop going with other people’s ears and start going with my own.”
The 11 tracks on Can’t Sit Down are among the most potent of C.J.’s long career, starting with the album-opening title track, written by Clifton. “I play that song pretty much how I played it with my daddy,” C.J. says. “I really liked it so I said, ‘OK, let’s try this one,’ and everybody fell right in. It just clicked. That’s a sign that something is a keeper, when everybody can fall in and it feels good.”
“Hot Tamale Baby” is the other Clifton-penned tune on the album, and then there’s “Paper In My Shoe,” a song written by Boozoo Chavis and Eddie Shuler and usually credited as the first zydeco hit. But some of the songs on Can’t Sit Down come not from the zydeco world at all but from unexpected sources, especially “Clap Hands,” penned by the great singer-songwriter Tom Waits. “I didn’t understand Tom Waits at first,” confesses C.J. “But my guitar player is a Tom Waits freak and one day he brought a video of Tom Waits. That’s where I learned to appreciate what he was doing. When I heard ‘Clap Hands’ I said, ‘I like that song. I can do something with that song.’”