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Feature Review: Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy, Band Courtbouillon

Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy
Band Courtbouillon
[Valcour Records (2011)]

It’s not often three Cajun accordionists come together as a band, especially when they lead their own aggregations but that’s the case here with Wayne Toups (Zydecajun), Steve Riley (Mamou Playboys) and Wilson Savoy (Pine Leaf Boys). Initially, Savoy’s Pine Leaf Boys performed at a ceremony honoring Toups. Toups then joined PLB for a few numbers and had such a good time that he remarked that he would like to start a band christened Courtbouillon (a tomato sauce used in Cajun cuisine) with Savoy and Riley. In February of 2011, it happened, an auspicious show that went hours past quitting time. It must have been magical because it sure laid a solid foundation for what takes place here.

Though Toups, Riley and Savoy are the best around in contemporary Cajun music, there’s never any showcases of hot licks and cute tricks; nor are there ever any upstaging cutting contests. Instead, it’s a very intimate affair shared among friends who deeply revere the Cajun music they were weaned on, as evidenced by the selections from Iry LeJeune, Lawrence Walker, Shirley Bergeron and the public domain vault. It’s done in a very acoustic, unamplified folky style that’s 180 degrees away from today’s kickin’ dancehall variety that’s expected to go over the top several times over. Additionally, there’s no smacking, hard-pounding drums; just Eric Frey marking the first beat of every waltz measure with his pulsing acoustic bass.

On the selections where Toups pumps the box, Riley masterfully outlines the chords on acoustic guitar and Savoy bows the fiddle old-timey style. On “The Passa Two-Step,” Riley plays beautiful ringing trills that resonate through the airwaves. “Les Flames De L’Enfer” is quite novel, each accordionist sings and takes a ride, allowing the attentive listener to compare and contrast the subtle intricacies of each. Although this courtbouillon’s more than ready, here’s hoping for seconds.

– Dan Willging

Here is the three playing together just earlier this month at Cafe Des Amis with a noisey crowd singing along to “The Back Door”:


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