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[Off The Record]
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Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
HAPPYTOWN
(Rounder)

Louisiana accordionist Steve Rileyís view of Cajun as a continually evolving music has typically induced his Mamou Playboys to give a swamp-rock bounce to the traditionís rhythmic locomotion. This approach has yielded 1998ís Bayou Ruler, a wonderful balance of electric aggression and rural grace, but also a few too many " crowd-pleasing " bar-band boogies at some concerts. On Happytown, which C.C. Adcock produced, the band take a step back from rock and aim to do for bayou backwaters what the Latin Playboys did for their Mexican heritage, taking chances with a wild mix of sonics. Samples of 1930s black " jure " singing, neo-field recordings made on the banks of the Atchafalaya, Creole poetry, warbling-effects vocals, grungy waltzes, French-Acadian lyrics, and lots of red-line recording levels combine with inspired accordion, fiddle, and guitar work. The simmering " Les Vigilantes " uses the most delicate of tones and a plaintive melody to tell a tale of hiding slaves. Some of the CDís sound tricks are just that ó tricks. And arrangements featuring horn sections continue to turn Rileyís Playboys into bar-band boogiers. But there are a lot of new ideas to like on Happytown. And itís hard to beat the elation of " Creole Stomp, " one of their great surging, swinging Cajun two-steps.

(Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys play with Geno Delafose and Charivari this Saturday, February 24, at the Mardi Gras Ball in Cranston, Rhode Island. Call 401-783-3926.)

BY TRISTAM LOZAW





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