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With Mallets Toward All
by Haven James

Preview: Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys at Joyous Lake

More than a fine Bayou demeanor, Terrance Simien radiates an honest warmth, a gentle tone of love in his every expression. Easygoing, yet totally focused, he has developed his music to bring joy to his listeners, while consciously extending its roots. At the top of his game and reaching to extend the zydeco playing board, Simien and his Mallet Playboys will play the Joyous Lake on Monday, August 10 [1998]; six years to the day since his zychodelic performance at Bearsville Theater in the summer of 1992.

Originally from Mallet, Louisiana and currently living in Lafayette, Simien is headed out on the second leg of his Jam the JazzFest tour. Promoting his new long-playing EP on Tone-Cool records, a division of Rounder, Terrance will play songs from this special release along with some from a new full album he's due to mix after the tour, aiming for a mid-winter release. Voted by Billboard as one of the "Top Ten Live Acts" in the nation, the show at the Lake should generate some serious waves.

"I'm looking forward to coming back to Woodstock; I like the vibe of the whole place," says Simien. And here's a flash: the killer band that's on the album is the same we'll see on Monday night. Simien, up front on all sorts of button accordions and singing, will be accompanied by Danny Williams on keyboards and vocals, Wayne Dalcourt on lead guitar, Harold Scott on bass, Dowell Davis on drums, percussion, and vocals, and Ralph Fontenot scraping the rub board. His sound master also travels with him so the mix should be good on the Lake's new system.

With more and more dance pavilions turning up at festivals and such, the evidence of rising interest in Cajun/zydeco music is prominent. Simian finds the venues to be expanding far beyond the jazz and blues events it has grown through, and credits this, in part, to the nature of zydeco itself.

He sheds some light on the two forms and how they've developed. "Zydeco music is the music of the Creole and Cajun music is the music of the Cajun," says Simien. "Zydeco music has always been a music evolving; there is always change in the music to fit the day, the times ...." From the beginning, zydeco artists added contemporary elements as a matter of course. "Clifton [Chenier] took the accordion and added blues and jazz, and even early '50s rock 'n' roll [was] influencin' the music," Simien continues. "[It was] Queen Ida who added almost kind of Tex-Mex flavor to her style of zydeco music, and Buckwheat [Zydeco] added R&B to it. It's a style of music that lends itself to other influences where Cajun is just pretty much straight ahead," as in more traditional. For his part in the flow, Simien adds, "I'm pretty much trying to create my own style within the style, different things that influence me, different artists that I like, and [trying] to write a song with that style." He pause and laughs, "Not too many current artists ... I'm a big lover of the music from the '60s, a lot of the '70s funk music and stuff like that, '70s rock too. Some current stuff like Taj Mahall, some reggae, but not no rap ... that's a little bit too young for me."

Speaking of the JazzFest EP and that selection of four long tunes, Simien says he did a little bit of everything. "I got a Dylan song on that, `Baby Stop Cryin',' that was one of my favorite Dylan songs that I got a chance to do with some great musicians," he says. Also included are "Macque Choux," a zydeco instrumental, and the classic "Iko Iko/Brother John/Jambalaya" medley that's become a Simien standard.

Call Joyous Lake/FLS Management direct for advance tickets at 679-0214. This show is mandatory for the Woodstock dance contingent and all peripheral swayers are welcome.

Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times

A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.

Go to the Werewolves of Woodstock page for more articles by Haven James.
Haven James can be contacted at

Posted on August 6, 1998

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