He's been hailed as the James Brown of Southwest Louisiana. Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural Jr., an ever-present accordion strapped around his frame, is a master at creating die-hard party grooves, at whipping a crowd into a dancing frenzy with his group Buckwheat Zydeco. The 42-year-old Dural, a native of Lafayette, La., roots his sound in zydeco, the music of the region's black, French-speaking Creoles. But he stirs in decidedly contemporary ingredients. His three major-label albums, on the Island label, easily intersperse down-and-dirty blues, funky R&B and revved-up rock 'n' roll into a spicy bayou gumbo. His latest recorded effort _ the stomping, infectious Where There's Smoke There's Fire _ employs English vocals save for one track.
The album even features some star turns. David Hidalgo, frontman for L.A. barrio rockers Los Lobos, added guitar and produced the album, imbuing it with a crackling energy. Rootsy country singer Dwight Yoakam joined Dural for a duet on the Hank Williams standard Hey Good Looking.
There was a time when Dural followed the crowd and rejected the accordion. Watching his father play the instrument to traditional acoustic zydeco at house parties, he categorically rejected it. He chose piano and organ instead. After stints in R&B bands throughout the South (backing up Gatemouth Brown and Joe Tex, among others), Dural saw the light and began working as a keyboardist with zydeco king Clifton Chenier in the mid-'70s. By '79, Buckwheat Dural had formed his own zydeco band, and this time he was playing accordion.
Dural and the zydeco boom that has mushroomed over the last half-decade are partially responsible for the resurgence of the accordion, which has become an alternative instrument of choice among pop's hip elite.
AT A GLANCE Buckwheat Zydeco at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa at 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 (plus service charge) in advance, available through Ticketmaster; $12.50 day of show.