In some ways, High Performance has it backwards. Most groups release a studio album or two before dropping the Über hip live album. But not High Performance, whose third effort is really its first studio affair following two separately released live CDs culled from the same 2008 performance. Buy on iTunesSimilar to the live discs, the high caliber musicianship and dazzling versatility remain the group’s inimitable trademarks. Steve Riley and Jason Bergeron alternate on accordion and fiddle, playing lush twin fiddles with Jamey Bearb, who maintains an engaging dancehall presence on vocals. With Richard Comeaux lathering it up on steel, it’s hard to imagine a fatter sound in dancehall Cajun-country music.
But what’s striking is the carefully picked song selection. Other than “Fi Fi Poncho,” a driving instrumental, and the epic reading of Lawrence Walker’s “’Tits yeux noirs” featuring Comeaux’s slack-jawing steelwork, most songs come from out-of-the way sources with an estimated half-dozen tunes making their CD debut here. There’s often a deep connection somewhere in the group, such as the kickin’ title track waxed by Bearb’s father Ricky in 1978. Besides being great stirring-swinging renditions, the eight tunes written or performed by Belton Richard also have a personal connection: Bergeron’s father Vernon drummed for Richard for years. Two songs (“Belle Musique de la Louisiane,” “Momma’s Yellow Rose”) come from Glenn Cormier and Carl Hollier of Cajun Company, whose songs from its obscurer 1990 La Bonne Compaigne LP deserve a second life. For High Performance, carrying on the tradition doesn’t mean regurgitating the obvious but uncovering enough stones to fill in the gaps.