Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In review--Oily Birds Two-Stepping in Cajun Country

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
Grand Isle

The oil-crusted bird that appears on the cover of Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys’ latest recording, Grand Isle is that picture that tells a story of 1,000 words. The image of the bird’s feathers smothered in oil as it stands in a puddle of petroleum mirrors the “survivor joy” that the Cajun band peppers throughout its press notes. But if you’re expecting Louisiana-style laments you won’t find many on this recording that sounds swampy while blending honky-tonk with 2-stepping Cajun fare. The band closes the recording with melancholy fiddle and vocals on the song, Au revoir (and that's the extent of sadness on the recording).

According to the press notes, the Mamou Playboys took a small and intimate route with this recording, and the tracks were recorded at several locations with both modern and vintage audio and production coming into the mix. While this music might sound celebratory on the surface, it appears only to promote the concept of survivor joy, and even if happy feet feel like dancing, we’re reminded that on April 20, 2010, 4.9 million barrels of petroleum/oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. And once again, the people of the Gulf region, including Louisiana (which was already devastated by the wake of Hurricane Katrina), was dealt another blow.

But if you still feel like dancing, there’s plenty of musical variety on this recording from an old-style rock ballad Non, Je regretted rien, to Waltz of Sorrow, to the Cajun two-stepping Lyons Point (just listen to Steve Riley’s accordion), to the foot stomping Pierre (my favorite on the CD). I’m not sure the reason why the band released this album as an independent and I hope it receives the radio airplay it deserves. It will be many decades before we forget the oily mess that took place in the Gulf of Mexico last year, and hopefully Grand Isle will stick around for decades too.  And maybe decades from now, we will have broken our addiction to oil and taken up dancing instead. and

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's really interesting. Thanks for sharing.