Zydeco boss Keith Frank didn’t record much for a few years, admittedly hitting an artistic drought. But then the floodgates bust open with 2017’s One Night at Cowboy’s and 2018’s blockbuster The Return of the King. Soulwood All-Stars Vol. 3 is his third record in less than two years and the third in the Soulwood All-Stars series that began in 2005 when sister/bassist Jennifer Frank Ledet was unavailable to perform with the group.
Of these eleven tracks, seven are originals, with three, “Country Boy/Just Can’t Get No Love,” “Talk to Me” and “Weather the Storm,” reprised from the first two volumes. The four covers are longtime R&B favorites from Frank’s formative years, like the beautiful, heartfelt rendition of Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step,” and Mint Condition’s silky “Pretty Brown Eyes.”
Frank’s new songs deal with familiar themes like career reflections and relationships. “Bottoms Up” chronicles a reality-escaping protagonist and should do well as a club party song. But what’s amazing is how everything is so well-engineered, it fits like a glove. Frank’s a master of surrounding his accordion-driven cultural music with keyboard-generated, contemporary effects that achieve a natural balance between time-honored tradition and today’s modern society. And speaking of Frank’s accordion playing, it’s easy to overlook how fluid and melodic it really is.
And then there’s the band’s versatility, to work with hip-hopper Jayyestarrr on “Gone,” and produce a gorgeous southern soul (sans accordion) song, “I Miss You,” as alter ego band, LA 26. Whether it was intended this way or not, this record easily stands among the best of Frank’s voluminous discography.