Horace Trahan's triumphant New York debut for Let's Zydeco!
Horace Trahan and the Ossun Express at Connolly's, with guest Lisa Wildman on flute
Now in her 26th year of staging the Let’s Zydeco! series of Cajun and Zydeco dance concerts in New York, Laura Selikson presented an exciting first at Connolly’s Klub 45 with the Sunday night debut appearance of Horace Trahan and the Ossun Express.
One of the top bandleaders in French Louisiana, singer-songwriter/accordionist Trahan—who hails from the country town of Ossun (near Lafayette)--started out firmly in the traditional Cajun music vein, evoking the “crying” vocal style of legendary Cajun musicians like accordionist Iry LeJeune, and D.L. Menard, known as the Cajun Hank Williams, with whom he recorded a CD in 1996. He issued his first solo album—Ossun Blues--that year as well, and it likewise reflected the bittersweet sounds of traditional Cajun music.
By 2000, however, Trahan had fully embraced the harder-edged, R&B-influenced zydeco sound—and had established himself with one of the area’s great novelty records, “That Butt Thing.” But his life and music took a darker turn after that success, culminating in rehab for drug abuse. When he re-emerged clean on the recording scene in 2010 with his landmark Keep Walking (an album, says renowned Cajun radio personality Todd Ortego, that “if you don’t have it, I don’t need to know you!”), it was with a new band, and the incorporation of a decidedly non-Cajun/zydeco instrument—flute—alongside regular guitar, bass, drums, rubboard and accordion, and sometimes horn.
A high point at Connolly’s, then, was “Same Knife Cut the Sheep Cut The Goat,” an especially intense cut from Keep Walking, for which Trahan called up flutist Lisa Waldman to replicate the song’s foundational flute riff. She stayed on for “The Joker,” helping to bring a new zydeco dimension to the Steve Miller smash.
Trahan returned to Keep Walking with “Guilty Till Proven Innocent.” Like much of the set, the song smoked rhythmically: After all, this is dance music, and while a lot of the songs weren’t as melodic as traditional Cajun music, it would be tough to top them in terms of a chugging beat that wouldn’t quit, with Trahan’s whooping and hollering stoking it into overdrive.
He did throw in a Cajun waltz now and then, as well as a tuneful cover of Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” his reggae cred having been established in 2014 with an original single “Legalize It,” that picked up musically and lyrically where Peter Tosh left off. And he played a couple tunes from his most recent album Until the End (2017), the timely “Horace’s Mardi Gras” and the sentimental “Louisiana, You Are My Sweet Home.”
Perhaps, after the packed Let’s Zydeco! dance floor response to Trahan’s first NYC visit, he left with the warm feeling that New York is now his sweet home away from home.
"Same Knife Cut the Sheep Cut the Goat"