Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys inspired by new CD
September 12, 2003
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys are getting back to the basics with their ninth album, “Bon Rêve.” The irony is that by doing what they do best, and ignoring the trends and the fad du jour, they may have laid the groundwork for a new progressive form of traditional Cajun music.
“We’ve put out so many records,” Riley said, “and it’s a challenge each time to top yourself, to do another project that really stands out from the others. We work really hard on doing that. I’m proud of everything we’ve done, but I’m especially excited about this project.”
“Bon Rêve” contains 17 tracks and more than an hour of music. While there are original tunes, there are also songs from the repertoires of Belton Richard, Aldus Roger, Lawrence Walker, Denis McGee, Austin Pitre, Amédé Ardoin, Carlton Frank, the Touchet Brothers, Philip Alleman and even Hank Williams.
There’s not an English song on this disc, and for the Francophone-impaired, the liner notes and lyrics are translated in English.
Folklorist Barry Ancelet writes in the liner notes that “Bon Rêve” is a “stunning combination of brand new old songs and venerable new songs, all driven by breathtaking musicianship and deeply thoughtful creativity.”
Fiddler David Greely and guitarist Sam Broussard co-produced the album with Riley. Greely has been with the band since its inception. Broussard joined the group two years ago for the band’s previous compact disc, “Happytown.” Longtime drummer Kevin Dugas is also present, as well as newcomer bassist Brazos Huval.
Recorded and engineered with Tony Daigle at his Electric Comoland studio in Lafayette, Riley said the compact disc took “four months of pedal to the metal.”
The title cut, which translates to “Sweet Dream,” was penned by Broussard. It’s a tribute to the late Canray Fontenot and begins, appropriately enough, with Greely on lead fiddle, Riley on second fiddle and Broussard on vocals.
The original tune, “Vini Jilie,” was also written by Broussard, who relied heavily on history. His great-uncle, Dr. James Broussard, published a book in the 1940s titled “Louisiana Creole Dialect,” in which he included five pre-Civil War Creole poems written by a St. Martinville slave, known only as Pierre, who had learned to read and write. The melody of the introduction is adapted from Denis McGee’s “Depuis L’age de Quinze,” and Broussard wrote the vocal melody for the song.
“Bon Rêve” covers familiar ground, but it does so in a new and innovative way. It’s undeniably traditional Cajun music, but the approach and the attack is anything but orthodox.
Riley said it’s all simply a matter of evolution.
“I feel like we’re doing now what we do best,” Riley said. “That’s what we’re into now, and I’m happy that we’re doing it.”