Steve Riley, the leader of the Mamou Playboys, is probably one of the better-known names in Cajun music — admittedly not a major genre but still one with lots of fans, including me. That’s why it caught my attention to see that he’s teamed up with band-mate Kevin Dugas on a labor of love, an album of music that plays tribute to many of the past stars of the music.
Now out on the Swallow Records label and carrying the awkward title High Performance – Live From Breaux Bridge: Part 1, the result is an outstanding collection of the kind of sounds you might have heard in a 1960s era Cajun dance hall. It pays special attention to the music of a couple of legends, Belton Richard and Aldus Roger. Both performers were multi-talented instrumentalists and vocalists who spent decades as a beloved part of the Southern Louisiana music scene.
Joining Riley and Dugas on their quest to honor the past are Brazos Huval, Jamey Bearb, Jason Bergeron, and Richard Comeaux. Guests on some of the pieces include a few family members, including Nolan Dugas, Michael Dugas, and Vernon Bergeron.
The result is a stable of musicians with a lot of firepower, and the talent to bring the music to life, starting with the very first track,”Aces Rock,” which was Belton Richard’s theme song. It’s one of the best on the album, but many of the other pieces are just as good.
My favorite was probably the Cajun instrumental standard “Johnny Can’t Dance,” along with “Lord, I Need Somebody Bad,” one of several that features Bearb’s strong vocals. But he’s not the only talented singer in the group — Riley more than holds his own with songs like “Hard To Love Someone.”
An outstanding collection of music from Cajun Country, reminiscent of an earlier era but still perfectly in step with today’s sounds — and if you’re in a dancing mode, make that the Cajun two-step.