Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, Wilson Savoy, The Band Courtbouillon (Valcour Records)

Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, Wilson Savoy, The Band Courtbouillon (Valcour Records)

There’s never been a recording quite like this one. Three highly accomplished Cajun revivalists—each representing a successive generation, each a musical pioneer, and each a highly respected bandleader in his own right—spontaneously coming together in an informal setting to pay their mutual respects to a musical heritage that has now become their shared inheritance. They infuse their interpretations with an enthusiasm and urgency rarely heard even in the originals, and the result is a thoroughly Cajun embarrassment of riches.

Wayne Toups, the eldest of the three and the project’s instigator, inhabits center stage. His vocals have grown husky and gruff while remaining vividly plaintive, acquiring the sense of authenticity and authority attributed to the late Johnny Cash. Assuming a supportive role here, Steve Riley, the next eldest, performs primarily on guitar and as harmony vocalist, but also contributes the only original tune, a brief musical introduction, and three solo tracks on which he not only takes the lead vocal, but also plays accordion, fiddle, and guitar. Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys holds up his end with harmony vocals, silvery sharp fiddle solos, and a pair of lead vocals, all of which are infused with deep respect for ensemble collaboration as well as the strategic deployment of signature Cajun embellishments.

While the song selection here displays a predilection for the dark side of Cajun songwriting (the Louisiana equivalent of Appalachian murder and disaster ballads), the overriding mood throughout is emotionally stirring and soulful, occasionally approximating R&B or contemporary roots rock. Two secret weapons help bring this fruitful collaboration to a state of near-perfection: the ubiquitous presence of acoustic bass up front in the mix, and the intimate setting of Joel Savoy’s homemade, analog-only studio, which reflects the warmth at the heart of The Band Courtbouillon and the humanity at the heart of Cajun music.

There are two bonus tracks available for free download at ValcourRecords.com.

Buy Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy’s The Band Courtbouillon on iTunes