Nearly 15 miles west of Interstate 49, about halfway between Opelousas and Carencro, lies Church Point, La., a small town of around 4,800. The other day, someone there bought a three-bedroom house with a single bath for $54,000. There's another three-bedroom house available there right now - it's a cozy 826-square-foot affair - for $25,000. Yup, it's a bit cheaper to live in Southwest Louisiana than Southwest Minneapolis.
The Church Point Chamber of Commerce has staked out its claim as the “Cajun Music Capital of the World.” It's the birthplace of the late Boozoo Chavis, bassist Rick Benoit of the Lucky Playboys, singer ‘n' squeezebox-player Rosy Ledet, as well as a whole bunch of accordion-wielding zydeco people named Carrier.
There's Roy Carrier, the patriarch of the clan, who began his professional music career at the age of 10 in his father's band. They were sharecroppers who needed every extra cent they could add to the meager pay earned in the fields.
Roy kept up the family tradition by putting his children Chubby, Troy (now known professionally as Dikku Du), and Elaine into his band, the Night Rockers, before they were 10 years old.
Roy led an interesting life there in affordable Church Point. For 16 years, he worked as an offshore oil driller. Seven days on, seven days off. During his seven days away from the platforms swaying in the Gulf, the Night Rockers came to life playing the soul-twisting dance music of zydeco.
While Roy is still playing (he left the oil decks in the late 1980s), he's been eclipsed in fame and artistic achievement by his eldest boy, born Roy, known to the world as Chubby.
One day at home, Roy the elder put on a record when little Chubby was running around at only 7 years old. It stopped the boy in his tracks.
“I said, ‘Daddy, what is this? What is he playing?' ” Chubby told an interviewer not long ago. “ 'He's playing this music, singing blues, gospel, funk and soul on an accordion?' It blew me away.”
The music he was listening to was by zydeco's greatest, Clifton Chenier (his father's cousin). The first struts of a generational bridge had been erected - and the high-step strutting hasn't stopped since.
“Ain't no party like a Chubby party, 'cause a Chubby party don't stop,” Carrier shouts at the start of his latest CD (coincidently titled “Ain't No Party Like a Chubby Party.”) It's a song Quentin Tarentino would doubtless love. It's got some Superfly guitar stylings backed by big, bumping bass, and suddenly, out of nowhere, it's got the sound of Michael Jackson.
“Let's dance, let's shout, shake your body down to the ground,” Chubby and company sing.
While Jackson might be one of the last people you'd invite to a party, the man could make some infectious dance music in the day and Carrier is smart to hook into the nonstop groove Jackson's song radiates.
Carrier follows it with a high-speed, hand-clapping locomotive of a blues song run through with accordion.
This is an artist unafraid of different styles; he knows he can bring just about anything 'round the bayou bend and give it a Cajun flavor. At times, you'll swear you're in a smoky blues bar (definitely not in South Minneapolis) and at other moments, you can feel time reel backwards and find yourself in the New Orleans that was a carefree party town before Hurricane Katrina. The streets are alive with frivolous fun, second-line bands and dancers, and littered with beads, flowers and the occasional Iowan napping until a cop arrives. There are other moments when a fiddle saws out old-timey Cajun two-steps and still others when you're escorted into church for gospel-inflected soul music. The feel-good glue binding it all together is the effervescent rub-board rhythm of zydeco.
F-Sa March 3-4, 9 p.m.,
Famous Dave's, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.
$5. 822-9900, www.famousdaves.com.
Heart of the beat
The Women's Drum Center holds its third annual benefit concert and silent auction on Saturday, March 4, at 6 p.m., featuring Drumheart.
The event also features comedian Elaine Thompson and the students of the Women's Drum Center in St. Paul.
Drumheart encourages audience participation: singing, dancing, clapping and even the playing of hand percussion instruments. The group specializes in rhythmic music with Brazilian, Caribbean, Jamaican and African roots.
Sa March 4, 6 p.m.
Walker Community Church
3104 16th Ave. S.
$12 (advance); $15 (door).
Hands of stone
Bryan Young spent his youth in upper Michigan, where he observed and studied animals, particularly birds. Some of those winged creatures have resurfaced in his work here in the Twin Cities, and are part of his local premiere, “Indigenous observations carved in stone.”
The show opens at Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St., Saturday, March 4 with a reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. It runs through April 16.
Young works in a variety of materials, including sculptures in marble and alabaster.
Artworks by Karl Herber, Jaana Mattson, Maureen Welter and Scott Baumgartner are also on display.
Gallery 360 is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
‘Tribes in the Afro-American Family'
Donald Walker's contemporary paintings depicting scenes from African-American life are at the Flanders Contemporary Art gallery, 3012 Lyndale Ave. S. The exhibit “Tribes in the Afro-American Family” is open now through March19.
Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 344-1700 or visit flanders-art.com for more information.
Michael Metzger can be reached at [email protected].