Leroy Thomas, Jewel of the Bayou (Maison de Soul Records)

Leroy Thomas, Jewel of the Bayou (Maison de Soul Records)Though Leroy Thomas’ CDs have been consistently good over the years, they’ve also had a run-and-gun sound that left them rough around the edges. His Maison de Soul debut stands out from previous offerings in that 1) more time was spent in the studio and 2) it’s his first disc recorded in Louisiana (the rest were waxed in Houston) where studio engineers know what authentic zydeco sounds like. The result is something that sounds more natural with proper levels set for vocals and instrumentation.

Thomas’ latest batch of songs has an unrushed, slow-cooked feeling, having been road-tested considerably. While it scores well in the groove, boogie and shuffle categories, it also reveals what a comic Thomas can be. There’s the dreaded morning-after woman who’s a cross between a bear and a gorilla (“Bearilla Woman”) and the self-explanatory “(Everybody Wanna Go to Heaven) Nobody Wants to Go Down” that’s a joke in itself.  Thomas’ greatest punch line comes on “I Think I Need a Boosta” where he sings, “The girl gave me viagra / abracadabra!”

Though humor is one of the many cards Thomas plays here, his rendition of the south Louisiana jukebox fave “I Don’t Want to Be Wanted” trumps all. With an unusual blending of zydeco and country, Thomas emotes his heart out, begging a potential paramour not to get involved with such a feckless spirit.  It’s an uncharacteristic selection but given his stirring performance, there’s obviously a deeper side to the party time Creole cowboy than previously thought.