Archive Files of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco Musicians
Posted between 1999 and 2008

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Steve Riley

and the Mamou Playboys

Click here for high resolution photos of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys on Flickr.

Click here to go to the Playboys' Official Web Site.

2008: Best of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Celebrating 20 Years of Great Cajun Music

Click here to go to the first page on Steve Riley.


Click on thumbnails for larger versions. Photos taken in 2008 at Festival International. the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, and Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week.

In Rounder Records’ 20th anniversary double-CD set, Best of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, David Greely urges us in the opening song to “Tiens bon” to all that is best and most important in our lives, fighting against direct threats and, even more importantly, actively working to preserve what we should hold dear rather than allowing it to slip casually away. Then, in 30 cuts, selected from eight of the band’s ten CDs beginning with their debut effort in 1990, the Mamou Playboys show that they practice what they preach.

From their rocking versions of standards like “J’ai été-z-au bal” to covers of songs by other popular Cajun artists like Belton Richard to their trademark recording of Creole musician Canray Fontenot’s “Allons danser,” the Mamou Playboys have taken the rich culture of Southwest Louisiana and made it even richer with their energy, innovation, and musical genius.

Perhaps even more importantly, they have produced music that is faithful to the heart and soul of tradition while creating songs that are unique, fresh, and memorable. “La Toussaint” is a beautiful tribute to Cajun ancestors. “Katherine” is a neatly told story of a beguiling woman. The atmosphere of “Pointe aux Chênes” is both ominous and irresistibly enticing. “Pays des étrangers” moves from loneliness in a strange land to the loneliness of estrangement from those we love. “Laisse-moi connaître” rocks with the bitter joy of a lover’s rebuke. “Bon rêve,” which celebrates the life of Canray Fontenot, has become one of the band’s standards. “Mari mouri” gives us a haunting musical setting for a poem written by a slave. “King Zydeco” is an instrumental featuring Steve Riley on triple-row accordion, David Greely on tenor sax, and guest Lil' Buck Senegal on guitar. .The other new song in addition to “Tiens bon” is “Menteur,” a lively expression of a lover’s scorn.

The band’s arrangements of traditional songs always succeed in making what was old new again, as, for example, in their adaptation of “Evangeline Waltz” as a two-step.  Their recording of “La danse de Mardi Gras.” has become the standard version. Even though it is played over and over on radio stations during the pre-Lenten season, broadcast from loudspeakers on Mardi Gras runs, and performed by the Mamou Playboys themselves throughout the region, crowds cheer every time they hear it. The CD set includes the band’s new recording of “Aux Natchitoches,” a traditional song of heartache and loss about a woman who, the lyrics imply, may be dead.

Lyrics for all of the songs are included in a PDF file on the first CD. The liner notes by Barry Jean Ancelet describe the band’s history and contributions, along with personal anecdotes from the foremost authority on Cajun music and culture.

Even if you already have the CDs from which the songs on this double set are drawn, Best of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys is definitely worth adding to your collection to bring together in one package some of the most enjoyable listening experiences you will ever have and to point toward the pleasures and rewards that await us in the band’s next twenty years.


Posted 8-24-08

All photographs and text by David Simpson.

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