Gig review: Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Edinburgh

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The spicy Cajun gumbo served up by Steve Riley and his band is liberally sauced with rock and blues and, as they demonstrated to a delighted if rather crammed Spiegeltent audience, they can boogie with the best of them.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys - Palazzo Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

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From the moment Riley’s introductory accordion chords were joined by drums and electric bass, then cut through by the singing of Kevin Wimmer’s fiddle and Sam Broussard’s electric guitar, the quintet hit the road as an unstoppable good-time juggernaut. But they also pay tribute to their elders who have maintained this distinctive culture (there are, Riley tells us, still a quarter of a million French-speakers in Louisiana), in numbers such as the solemn waltz-time La Tousaint, or a set of tunes handed down from Dennis McGee, “grandfather of Cajun fiddling”, with Riley doubling on fiddle.

Much of the band’s edge came from Broussard’s muscular guitar work, contributing some blistering acoustic playing to one number, then in another echoing Riley’s accordion phrases on slide guitar in eerie call and answer.

Wimmer was also well able to contribute a lusty Cajun holler to one old Creole tune, beforehis fiddle gave way to further searing electric guitar.

There was also a beefy, 12-bar rendition of Non, je ne regrette rien. Was that a squeal of feedback, or the outraged ghost of Edith Piaf gibbering in the wings?