This Mardi Gras will be a bittersweet celebration for Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. For 23 years, accordionist Steve Riley has been making music with his friend and fiddler, David Greely, but this Mardi Gras will be their last together. Greely is leaving the Mamou Playboys to save his ears; the loud volume of dancehall shows has been harmful to his hearing, and his doctor has told him that he needs to stop. So this Tiny Desk Concert is one of his last shows with the Grammy-nominated Cajun band.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys make sweet Cajun music together: music steeped in the French heritage of southwestern Louisiana and driven by accordion and fiddle. It's sweetly melodic, danceable music with origins in French-Canadian history that dates back to the 1760s — think of it as their country music. Over the last 23 years, there have been 11 Mamou Playboys records; the latest, Grand Isle, is self-released. In the album's title track, Greely finds more that's bittersweet to sing about: Grand Isle is not only the place he loved most as a child, but it's also a place hit hard by the gulf oil disaster last spring.
Come Mardi Gras this week, the band will play its last dancehall together. During this visit to NPR, Greely joked about putting together an acoustic tour of office spaces. If such a thing would keep this great team together, I'd say it's not a bad idea.
- "Lyons Point"
- "Valse de Chagrin/Waltz of Sorrow"
- "Grand Isle"
- "Honest Papas Love Their Mamas Better"
Michael Katzif and Bob Boilen (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; photo by Erin Schwartz