New music from one of the big names in Zydeco!
It’s always good to celebrate the release of a new Zydeco album but it’s especially exciting when that album comes with a connection to one of the biggest names in the genre. Dwayne Rubin, aka Dwayne Dopsie, is the youngest son of Alton Jay Rubin – the great Rockin’ Dopsie and an absolute Zydeco legend. But Dwayne is no “wannabe” star riding on his father’s reputation – Dwayne has twice been nominated for a Grammy and has run his own band, the Zydeco Hellraisers, since he was nineteen. Since starting the band, in 1999, they have racked up an impressive ten albums (eight studio recordings and two live releases) and become one of the hottest names on the Zydeco circuit, recognised for their ability to incorporate blues, r&b, rock and reggae into their take on the Zydeco sound. Dwayne himself is a fine accordion player who is also blessed with a soulful voice that sounds as good on the slower material as it does on the funky, party tracks that dominate the band’s live shows.
“Set Me Free” is Dwayne and the band’s eleventh album and their second recording for Louisiana Red Hot Records, who also released the band’s 2019 album, “Bon Ton”.
This new album is dominated by the upbeat, rocking Zydeco that typifies a Zydeco Hellraisers show and is what his audiences pay to see and hear – songs like ‘Shake, Shake, Shake’, ‘My Sweet Chaitanya’, ‘Lafayette Boogie’ – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and there’s nothing that needs fixing about this bands ability to play high tempo, dance band music, Lafayette style. The stand-out track of the upbeat numbers is ‘Nobody Gonna Love Me’. Like all but one track on the album (the exception being Eddie Jones’ ‘The Things I Used to Do’), the song was written by Dwayne and it is a barnstorming Zydeco anthem. It features some outstanding accordion playing from the man himself and a coruscating guitar solo from fellow Zydeco Hellraiser, and co-producer of the album, Brandon David, who also engineered the new album at his own Fat Tone Studio.
What is really noticeable on this album is how well Dwayne Dopsie’s voice is maturing and that’s best demonstrated by a couple of the slower cuts. First, there’s the aforementioned ‘The Things I Used to Do’, originally written by Eddie Jones, or Guitar Slim, as he’s known to the Blues fraternity. The song was a big hit for Guitar Slim way back in 1954; on “Set Me Free”, Dwayne Dopsie retains the twelve-bar blues at the heart of the song but adds his fine accordion work to the mix and there’s some great keyboard work from Dwayne’s brother, Anthony Dopsie, an established Zydeco musician in his own right, guesting on the album. They successfully re-interpret the song as a soulful Zydeco blues and it sounds perfect. The other song that shows how Dwayne Dopsie has developed as a vocalist is the title track, ‘Set Me Free’. This is a great song, incorporating a lilting reggae beat and a heartfelt plea for people to do right by their fellow man – “If you see me, and I’m low down on my knees/ would you help me, or would you walk right past me?/Would you help me, or leave me in my misery?”. Definitely one of the high points of an album loaded with good songs and fine musicianship. Dopsie and David have done a good job with the production – it’s crisp and clear, with the right instruments to the fore at the right time and the band all lend excellent support, demonstrating what a tight unit the Zydeco Hellraisers are.
This album has a classic Zydeco sound but updated for modern audiences, which is what Dwayne Dopsie is all about, building on his father’s legacy for today’s listeners. For those that are already into the sound of Zydeco, this album offers a fresher approach, though if you already know Dwayne and the Zydeco Hellraisers work there are no big surprises here but a continuation of the good music they have always produced. For those that are new to this music then this is a great gateway album and sure to turn you into a true believer. When Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers cut loose, if your toes don’t start tapping, be sure to check that you still have a pulse! Laissez les bons temps rouler.