Happy In Bag

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Terrance Simien

When he released There's Room For Us All in 1993, I was certain that Terrance Simien was destined to become a roots music stalwart, filling clubs and headlining festivals worldwide. It never happened.

Simien's free performance Sunday night at City Market mirrored his confounding struggle to find an audience. He played a joyous set of American music. Yet only a couple hundred people bothered to show up.

By my count, Simien has issued eight releases on six different record labels. Such inconsistency is rarely a good sign. Subsequent efforts failed to capture the magic of his '93 breakout, although 2001's The Tribute Sessions is compelling. It contains one of my all-time favorite cover songs, an ethereal take on The Band's It Makes No Difference.

Simien is a good looking guy who sings like Aaron Neville. He plays pop music disguised as zydeco. Even with an accordian and washboard-fronted band, he's as much a reggae, funk and soul artist as he is a zydeco musician. His sound is equal parts War, Bob Marley and Clifton Chenier. And as the photo illustrates, even kids are drawn to him.

Louisiana artists like Marcia Ball and Chubby Carrier have managed to achieve the success that has eluded Simien. Perhaps he's considered too commercial by fans of roots music, which would be an ironic dilemma, as he's woefully obscure outside of his home state. A more likely explanation is that his career has been bungled by mismanagement and poor business decisions.

Based on his strong performance Sunday night, however, it's not too late for Simien to get back on track. People just need to hear him.


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