Root Down

It’s a shame about Ray

A Canadian legend in the world of rockabilly and independent music, Ray Condo
died of a heart attack last week. He was just 53 years old and will be missed
and mourned by fans all over the world. Announcing the death of a significant
person is never a happy task. But Condo’s passing is especially tough,
considering he still had many shows and tours booked—which means that
instead of writing, “Go see this phenomenal man and his band the
Ricochets; they’re a one-of-a-kind act you can’t miss,”
we’re instead mourning the fact that his suave and sassy demeanour will
never hit the stage again. Born in Hull, Quebec, Condo picked up his first
guitar at the age of 12. His first musical ventures were in the realm of punk
rock, joining the Secret V’s in Vancouver during the mid-’70s.
But Condo couldn’t stomach the scene’s turn toward metal, and he
shared his sentiments in an interview with Chris Andrich for Mote
magazine—to wit: “You’re looking at a punk boy who went the
other way. Fuck the long hair, fuck the Marshall amps, I’m going home
and listening to Hank Williams. That’s what happened.” Condo
drifted out to Montreal where he reinvented himself as Ray Condo, and he and
his band, the Hardrock Goners, earned notoriety for their blues-infused,
country-tinged Texas swing style. Over the next 10 years, the band released
three albums—Crazy Date (1986), Hillbilly Holiday (1993) and Come On!
(1994)—followed by another four releases (Swing Brother, Swing! in
1995, Door to Door Maniac in 1997, Condo Country in 1998 and High and Wild in
2000) with the Ricochets, who played with him until the end. Even though he
recorded steadily, Condo was made for the stage and his live performances
were far superior to anything that went down in studios. Nothing held him
back, including an earlier heart attack that forced him to cancel just one
show before continuing on with his tour. Energized and ready to live life to
the fullest no matter what the cost, Condo was cut from the same cloth as his
hero, Hank Williams. He spurred a new generation to embrace swing
culture—not only attending his concerts but learning the trademark
steps and matching his forceful presence on the dance floor. Thanks to those
fans, the energy that let Condo’s torch burn so brightly will not be
extinguished anytime soon. Sporting a Chubby Chubby Carrier and the Bayou
Swamp Band • With Los Nacos • Sidetrack Café • Wed, Apr
28 “Welcome all zydeco maniacs!” Wearing huge mirrored shades,
oversized chains and a wacky black Afro wig, Chubby Carrier invites you into
his cyberspace world where you’ll find, among other strange objects,
There Ain’t No Party Like a Chubby Party. That’s the name of the
album released last September by Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, the
five-piece group he founded in 1989. Having worked as a professional musician
in Louisiana for more than 15 years, Carrier has put his own personal spin on
the genre embraced first by both his grandfather and his father, Roy Carrier.
“I grew up in the ’70s, you know, and that’s why you can
hear the horn action on my album and what have you,” Carrier explains
over the phone from Louisiana, where the outdoor festivals are in full swing.
“So everybody has their own sound. My grandfather had his sound, which
was traditional zydeco, and then my daddy has his own style because he played
blues and zydeco. And then you’ve got me coming up playing my style
with a little bit of a funk edge to it.” Although Carrier’s
accordion remains true to zydeco’s frantic French-Acadian rhythms, his
friendly, easygoing personality punctuates everything he says and
does—including his explanation of why he started up his own label,
Swampadelic Records. “You know,” he says, “right now, times
are tough and you don’t need to be spreading the word and the gospel
and the music and the money to anybody else. All I need to do is just spread
the love.” V

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