Celebrating not only a milestone in age but also in his career, Steve Riley has been one of our area's most influential and beloved musicians and ambassadors. Forming the renowned Mamou Playboys in 1989 with fiddler and vocalist David Greely, Riley and his band helped solidify the Cajun music repertoire with modern recordings of classic dancehall standards and forgotten gems with the 16 records under their belt. This Friday the band celebrates the release of their newest album 30 Years Live! while Steve will host his 50th birthday the next afternoon at Vermilionville. Scheduled for the day are Tommy Mclain and C.C. Adcock, a comedy roast in Steve's honor, and the Savoy Family Band.
Having grown up in Evangeline Parish, a hotbed for traditional French music in Louisiana, Riley was drawn to the sound of the diatonic accordion at an early age. He quickly mastered the instrument and was tapped by none other than Cajun campaigner and fiddler Dewey Balfa to join his band. Steve was for a time the new kid on the block and gained plenty of attention and praise in the folk music world. Around this same time, Steve met his future musical partner David Greely at one of Marc Savoy's Saturday morning jam sessions in Eunice. The two were living in Baton Rouge at this time and decided to form a band. The Mamou Playboys were born and soon entered the studio with producer Zachary Richard to record the band's self-titled debut album.
Exploring not only the large stockpile of Cajun tunes but also classic zydeco sounds from the likes of Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis, the Mamou Playboys helped propel Louisiana accordion-driven dance music into the 21st century. With the release of 1998's controversial Bayou Ruler and it's follow up Happytown, Steve and his bandmates experimented with modern rock and swamp pop sounds that broke down barriers on what could be done within the South Louisiana music genre. The 5 piece group received several Grammy nominations throughout their career and Riley eventually took home the prize with his traditional acoustic trio Courtbouillion.
Their recent retrospective 30th-anniversary live concert was recorded by Joel Savoy of Valcour Records. The album moves through the band's history with a very eclectic mix of the group's large collection of songs and some new compositions.
For this week's playlist, I made a mix of my favorite Mamou Playboys songs. Unfortunately, their new album won't be for sale or streaming until this Friday, but I included a couple of the original recordings of the songs that do appear on 30 Years Live! You'll hear Greely's "Dominos", their take on Canray Fontenot's "Bee de la manche," and "Boozoo's Blues" sung by current fiddler and fellow Balfa protégé Kevin Whimmer. Also queued up is the percussive "Chez Personne" from Bayou Ruler and "Seems To Me", an original zydeco tune penned by Riley that wouldn't be out of place on Paul Simon's Graceland.
Live music in Lafayette this week
Monday, June 10 at 6:00pn
Blue Monday Blues Jam
Rock n’ Bowl
Thursday, June 13 at 7:00 pm
Kyle Huval and Friends
Friday, June 14 at 9:00 pm
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Rock n' Bowl
Saturday, June 15 at 12:00 pm
Steve Riley's 50th Birthday Party
Sunday, June 16 at 1:00 pm