Friday, April 10, Chevron Stage, 2p
Fourteen years after his Earthly departure, the legacy of Boozoo Chavis lives on in the zydeco kingdom. Practically every zydeco band has at least one Boozoo tune, if not several, in its repertoire, and having one is practically a requirement to be considered legit. Among those carrying the torch are the Dog Hill Stompers, but the group has a vested interest in doing so—Boozoo was their grandfather.
Lifting its name from a Boozoo signature song “Dog Hill,” brothers Rellis Jr., Cornell and Justin and first cousins Mason and Quincy Trail (along with honorary family member/guitarist Bryan Allen) have been around their grandfather’s music all their lives. When they were boys, they would all sit behind Magic Sounds’ drummer Rellis, Sr. during Boozoo’s Labor Day Festival and pretend that they, too were drumming, imitating the moves and motions of their father and uncle. “We would act like we had drumsticks in our hands and would mark everything that was going on onstage,” recalls bassist Mason. “Every year we looked forward to doing that, and that’s how we started learning how to play.”
As time went on, Boozoo would let his grandsons play a few numbers onstage, thus showcasing their emerging talent. “He was real proud of that,” says Rellis, Sr., Stompers’ co-manager. Sometime in the late ’90s, Cornell played a few of his grandfather’s songs in an accordion contest at the Zydeco Extravaganza. “Everyone was just floored how well he played. So I just kicked it around and said, ‘well okay, Cornell and the Dog Hill Stompers.’” Later, the group’s name was shortened to the Dog Hill Stompers.
Even though the seeds had been planted, it still took Hurricane Rita in 2005 to germinate them. The tight knit family evacuated to Natchez, Mississippi, and with little to do, Mason bought a bass and amp, and then taught himself how to play the four-string. “He pretty much surprised the hell out of us,” recalls Rellis, Jr. “It sparked a new flame in us. He initiated us in picking up our instruments again.”
Since the Dog Hill Stompers have been around their grandfather’s music all their lives, they know where the quirky chord changes are. “Somebody else would make the changes differently,” explains Rellis, Sr. “The Dog Hill Stompers sound pretty close to the real thing.” A typical show consists of 70 percent Boozoo material and 30 percent collaboratively written originals.
What else distinguishes the Stompers is its triple-threat on accordion with Rellis, Jr., Cornell and Quincy all alternating on squeezebox during a show. Though each plays his grandfather’s music competently, each has his own style. Rellis, Jr. plays the closest to Boozoo, Cornell is the most progressive, and Quincy falls somewhere in between.
In early summer, the group plans to release its debut CD On the Rise. While the shows may be 70 percent Boozoo material, ironically, the new disc will have only one Boozoo song (“Jolie Catin”) with the rest being originals. Mason describes the CD as “modern-sounding enough where you can tell it’s in this day and age.” With songs about their lives, Creole women and country cooking, the group hopes that one of the songs will yield a hit, which will lead to more touring and a possible retirement from their day jobs.