Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL is May 16-18, 2014 - www.hangoutmusicfest.com

Pine Leaf Boys

Back Home

(Valcour)

Pine Leaf Boys, Back Home (Valcour Records)

After countless stateside and international tours, the Pine Leaf Boys realize that you never appreciate what you have until you leave home, hence the premise of the disc’s title. Their Valcour Records debut and fifth disc overall is quite possibly the group’s best musical export yet. The playing is razor sharp with a penchant for swinging madly (“Blues de Cajun”) and rocking explosively (“Cajun from Church Point”). Occasionally, there’s a respite courtesy of a glorious waltz. The three distinct vocalists—Courtney Granger, Drew Simon and Wilson Savoy—keep the proceedings fresh and make it difficult to identify a dominant voice.

Because the Pine Leaf Boys value their roots, it’s only fitting that the group pays homage to the unsung heroes of the modern dancehall style. Many of the practitioners covered here are still active, including accordion powerhouse Jesse Lége who inspired them to record his “Je T’aime Toujours.” Belton Richard’s “What’s the Matter with My Baby” swings and repeatedly builds to micro-bursts of energy that are capped off by Granger’s combustible fiddle runs.

But the song that will likely catch the uninitiated off guard is the infectiously swooning “Fool,” an uncharacteristic swamp popper replete with dreamy “ooh-wah-ooh” background vocals. Though the forgotten ’77 country-pop hit was translated into French as “Coullion” by Wayne Toups a decade ago, Savoy adheres to the English-sung original, adding in delicate accordion- played melody lines and bouncy triplets on keys. It’s a different side to a vocalist who usually sings with reckless abandon, but it’s also nice to know that, now and then, there’s a different side to one of Cajun music’s best groups.