Words by Roger Hahn
There’s never been a recording quite like this one. Three highly accomplished Cajun revivalists – each a musical pioneer and highly respected bandleader in his own right – have come together to pay their mutual respects to a musical heritage that has now become their shared inheritance. It’s an embarrassment of riches that is thoroughly Cajun and has ‘instant classic’ written all over it.
Wayne Toups, the eldest of the three, takes centre stage with two series of tunes at the beginning and end of the CD, each track set apart by vocals now grown husky and gruff, with a sense of authenticity and authority that bears a distinct resemblance to the late Johnny Cash. Assuming more of a supportive role here, Steve Riley, the next eldest and an unfailingly innovative musician, performs primarily on guitar and as harmony vocalist. Wilson Savoy, leader of The Pine Leaf Boys, holds up his end admirably as the youngest member of the trio, with harmony vocals, silvery sharp fiddle solos, and a pair of lead vocals.
While the song selection here displays a pronounced predilection for the dark side of Cajun songwriting, the overriding mood is emotionally stirring and deeply soulful. Two secret weapons help bring this fruitful collaboration to a state of near-perfection: the ubiquitous acoustic bass, frequently placed up-front in the mix, and the intimate setting of Joel Savoy’s analogue-only studio, which appropriately reflects both the warmth that suffuses the musical collaboration at the heart of The Band Courtboullion and the humanity at the heart of Cajun music.
Listen to a choice track from The Band Courtboullion on the Top of the World CD included with the current issue (#84 June 2012).