Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys
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The photo is exactly what you'd expect on the cover of an album whose mood was galvanized by the 2010 BP oil spill off the coast of the band's native Louisiana: it shows a water bird standing all alone completely covered in crude oil. Inside the cover is another small smear of oil on a white background, with the legend "April 20, 2010: 4.9 million barrels." These artistic elements signal a certain seriousness of intent, and as we all know, seriousness of intent can have unpredictable effects on musical quality. But Steve Riley and his band channel their emotions nicely here: they temper justifiable outrage with what fiddler David Greeley calls "survivor's joy," departing from the traditional Cajun music that has always been the Playboys' stock in trade to draw on a variety of musical styles representing the many cultures and folkways that have been affected by the environmental disaster in southern Louisiana, and maybe a few that haven't. On Grand Isle you'll hear, among other things, a song that sounds like something Tom Waits would have written if he'd grown up along a bayou ("Pierre"); a Cajun-funk stomp with a ska backbeat and an absolutely wicked guitar solo ("C'est L'heure pour Changer"); flat-out rockers, including one with a truly monolithic beat and compressed, distorted vocals ("Chatterbox"); and even a surprisingly straight rendition of "Non, Je ne Regrette Rien," Edith Piaf's cabaret classic, here rendered with a full string section. There's a smattering of traditional two-steps and waltzes, of course, but they stand out as tradition-minded exceptions on a program that seems to want to express a small range of emotions (regret, anger, longing, defiance) in as many different ways as possible.
A group that never disappoints on and off stage. Another great album.
Thanks for my introduction to Cajun music
This is my first Cajun album - bought it in the French Quarter last month and have been listening ever since. These musicians are incredible together. Thanks to the band.
I love these guys. Genuine music!