Louisiana Son

Pop-zydeco crossover artist Curley Taylor brings Mardi Gras to Eugene

Zydeco musician Curley Taylor has cold weather on his mind.

Taylor’s upcoming string of tour dates spotlights his Mardi Gras run, and it will likely be freezing or even snowing at just about every tour stop, including places like Deadwood, South Dakota.

“I’ve been out there at 28 degrees below. That ain’t nothing like I’ve ever felt in my life,” the Louisiana musician says. 

If any kind of music can keep you warm on a cold winter night, it’s zydeco, a hot, pulsing style from southwest Louisiana, blending indigenous and African influence with French music and the blues.

Taylor’s tour stops Feb. 26 in Eugene.

Of the zydeco genre, Taylor says, “the vibe is just a real good-feel music.”

He’d know because the music is in his blood. Taylor’s father, Jude Taylor, fronted the Burning Flames, and by high school, Curley was backing up the band on drums.

One night, the regular drummer couldn’t make the gig. “They put me on the spot,” Taylor says. “I’ve been doing music ever since.” 

In addition to playing in his father’s band, Taylor has built a career drumming for legendary zydeco artists such as C.J. Chenier, among others, all the while dreaming of leading his own project.

“I can pull this off,” Taylor remembers thinking. “I think I can sing a little bit. I think I can write a song. I should be able to learn how to play this accordion. We need to get this thing going.” 

The transition from drums to fronting a band was nerve-wracking. “The first couple of shows I was nervous as hell,” he says. “As a drummer you’re always at the back. You’re always looking at the audience, but the audience isn’t looking at you. In the front, all eyes on me. That’s the difference.” 

After jumping on the horse a few times, though, Taylor was ready to go. His last full-length album, Rise Up, came out in 2017 — a Keb Mo-meets-the-bayou-style pop crossover zydeco record, with elements of traditional and mainstream soul and R&B.

“Everything has the influence of what you listen to,” Taylor says. Though he calls himself pretty old school — a fan of Sam Cooke, Bobby Bland, Al Green and even disgraced soul singer R. Kelly — Taylor believes zydeco, in particular, needs to keep up with the times.

“Turns out there is no original form,” he says. “If you listen to the blues they make now, it’s not like the blues sung back then. The first jazz songs aren’t like the jazz songs they have now. You want to progress. You don’t want things to stay the same.”

Taylor continues: “I try and make my explosive songs explode. My slow songs are smooth, and when it’s time to be rocking, I like to be rocking.”

Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble perform 6:30 pm the day after Mardi Gras, Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the Upstairs Ballroom at the Vets Club; $12, all-ages. Admission includes free beginner dance lesson by Deb Seeck, a nationally recognized dance instructor from Salem.