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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Richard Falls Short in His Aspirations

March 19, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Zachary Richard led a save-the-fragile-Cajun-culture campaign at the Coach House on Wednesday, but for all his informed song introductions and stories about what inspired various tunes, Richard (who also appears at the Troubadour tonight) only intermittently displayed the poetic talent to get his point across.

As a lyricist, he aspires to be Cajun music's Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner, writing about the richness of his people and their land. He's also got an elastic, wonderfully smoky voice that's capable of great expressiveness.

As a musician, however, he appears content to be the next John Mellencamp rather than the next Iry LeJeune, Cajun music's greatest accordionist and songwriter.

In a few songs from his current "Snake Bite Moan," album, from which the bulk of Wednesday's 95-minute show was drawn, Richard gets a good grip on what makes the music and the culture of the Cajuns so vital and worthy of preservation.

But his musical settings only rarely transcend generic three-chord rock, and he couldn't have failed to notice that the only time a substantial number of people were sufficiently moved to abandon their chairs for the dance floor was when he came closest to playing traditional Cajun two-steps.

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