A brief history…

“Sit back, turn it up, hook up the mule, cause the wagon is loaded!” This type of band has been an idea of Kevin Dugas and Steve Riley for over ten years now. The idea was there, but nothing was ever put together until the middle of 2008. When Kevin put this group of guys together, they knew instantly that they had something special. The idea that Kevin and Steve had was to take the twin fiddles and the powerful steel guitar sounds of Belton Richard and Aldus Roger, bring that sound back to life, and modernize that sound. Keeping the traditional sound of that era alive is the passion of this group, and with the modern technology of today, it’s like “1960s dance hall music on steroids.” Everyone in the band has cut their teeth on this type of music and it is an honor to be able to record some of their favorite songs from that era. The songs they play were heard at dancehalls in the 1960s and ’70s, and they try to pick the ones that are rarely played and heard today. Everyone in the band has some type of musical talent passed down from generation to generation by close family. You can say that they are the second generation of musicians from an era of music they love and try to keep alive. They are all committed to other bands, but come together to have fun and continue this tradition of music they grew up listening to and love. Band members include:

  • Kevin Dugas was born in August 1969 in Lafayette, Louisiana to Geraldine & Nolan Dugas. His father wrote and recorded several well-known Cajun classics, such as “The Road You Took,” “Married to One, In Love with Another,” “Wait ‘Til I Finish Crying,” “Broken Family Waltz,” and more. Kevin inherited his father’s musical prowess and learned to play the drums at an early age. Later he played with several bands, including stints with Belton Richard and Walter Mouton. Since the early ’90s, Kevin has played full-time with Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys.

  • Jamey Bearb has always been a big Belton Richard fan, and his style of singing has had a huge impact on Jamey’s own style. Jamey was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year in 2002, 2010 & 2011 by the Cajun French Music Association. He is also thought to be one of the best dancehall and contemporary Cajun fiddlers today. In recent years, Jamey has performed with several Cajun musicians, such as Jay Cormier, Don Montoucet, Jimmy Breaux, and more.

  • Steve Riley grew up in Mamou, the Cajun prairie capitol of South Louisiana. Coming from a musical family and having been exposed to Cajun music from an early age, it was no surprise when he took up the accordion in his early teens. Steve’s dream was always to meet and play with the legendary Dewey Balfa, and the dream was realized when Steve was only 15 years old. At a party given by Dewey’s nephew Tony, Steve was given the chance to show his skills. Steve  would play on and off with Dewey until his mentor’s death in 1992. In 1987, Steve and friend/fellow musician David Greely started up The Mamou Playboys. It is a musical partnership that has lasted for more than 20 years. Having an unyielding desire for new experiences, Steve has also performed with handful of well-known musical side projects, such as Lil’ Band o’ Gold, Racines, and now this latest, High Performance.

  • Jason Bergeron is the son of Francis and Vernon Bergeron. Vernon is well known for his talent as a drummer & has performed with several Cajun Greats over the years, such as Aldus Roger, Belton Richard, and Paul Daigle & Cajun Gold. Hearing their music as a child, it’s easy to understand why Jason has been interested in music all of his life. He started playing accordion at the age of seven & the fiddle at age nine. Jason attributes his success as a musician to all of the performers he grew up admiring.

  • Richard “T-Coe” Comeaux was born in June of 1961 and grew up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Influenced by his father Camille Comeaux, who played with the likes ofAdam Hebert in the ’50s and ’60s, Richard began playing Cajun steel guitar at the age of 13. By the late ’70s, Richard had played with almost every Cajun artist around back then, before settling down for a while with the band Jambalaya. The ’80s & ’90s brought new opportunities for Richard, as he switched gears & started performing Country music. He played with the band South Bound with Sammy Kershaw, and was later part of the group, River Road, who signed with major labels Capitol Records and Virgin Records. Richard says that he is now totally content playing both Cajun and Country music here in Acadiana with all of his friends.

  • Brazos Huval is a well respected musician of the Huval family in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a family well-known for their musical talent. Since the age of 17, Brazos has performed with his siblings in the Huval Family Band every chance he gets. His talent keeps him in high demand everywhere, as he also plays regularly with Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys in addition to Jay Cormier and Cajun Country. He’s also done stints with Kyle Huval & the Dixie Club RamblersHorace Trahan and the New Ossun Express, and more. Brazos has even been nominated by The Recording Academy’s Grammy Committee for his work with The Mamou Playboys. Amazingly, he also finds the time to teach guitar, bass and fiddle.

Awards:

  • Jamey Bearb: 2011 CFMA Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Jamey Bearb: 2010 CFMA Fiddler of the Year

  • Jamey Bearb: 2010 CFMA Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Steve Riley: 2010 CFMA Accordionist of the Year

  • Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 1: 2010 CFMA Best CD

  • High Performance: 2010 CFMA Band of the Year

  • High Performance: 2010 CFMA People’s Choice Award

Reviews:

Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 1
Blog Critics Magazine
published April 13, 2009

Steve Riley, the leader of the Mamou Playboys, is probably one of the better-known names in Cajun music — admittedly not a major genre but still one with lots of fans, including me. That’s why it caught my attention to see that he’s teamed up with bandmate Kevin Dugas on a labor of love, an album of music that plays tribute to many of the past stars of the music.

Now out on the Swallow Records label and carrying the awkward title High Performance –Live From Breaux Bridge: Part 1, the result is an outstanding collection of the kind of sounds you might have heard in a 1960s era Cajun dance hall. It pays special attention to the music of a couple of legends, Belton Richard and Aldus Roger. Both performers were multi-talented instrumentalists and vocalists who spent decades as a beloved part of the Southern Louisiana music scene.

Joining Riley and Dugas on their quest to honor the past are Brazos Huval, Jamey Bearb, Jason Bergeron, and Richard Comeaux. Guests on some of the pieces include a few family members, including Nolan Dugas, Michael Dugas, and Vernon Bergeron.

The result is a stable of musicians with a lot of firepower, and the talent to bring the music to life, starting with the very first track,”Aces Rock,” which was Belton Richard’s theme song. It’s one of the best on the album, but many of the other pieces are nearly as good.

My favorite was probably the Cajun instrumental standard “Johnny Can’t Dance,” along with “Lord, I Need Somebody Bad,” one of several that features Bearb’s strong vocals. But he’s not the only talented singer in the group — Riley more than holds his own with songs like “Hard To Love Someone.”

An outstanding collection of music from Cajun Country, reminiscent of an earlier era but still perfectly in step with today’s sounds — and if you’re in a dancing mode, make that the Cajun two-step.

by Big Geez


Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 1
BluesRag Magazine

Two Mamou Playboys – Steve Riley and Kevin Dugas – have salivated for more than a decade over the dream of unleashing “1960’s Cajun dancehall music on steroids.” It would be a souped-up version of what Belton Richard and Aldus Roger once drove south Louisianans into two-step ecstasy with. Horsepower would derive from the internal combustion of twin fiddles and hot steel guitar, with bass and drums boosting the bang. Traction would be the job of a steel-belted accordion. Finally that vision materialized one night last year. Caught absolutely Live from Breaux Bridge on the stage of Mulate’s, the newly-seasoned High Performance launched into a set fittingly christened by Richard’s “Ace’s Rock” theme. “Musician’s Paradise, “Evangeline Special,” and “Went to the Dance” also re-lived large with the aid of Riley’s and Jamey Bearb’s singing. But the secret weapon is that steel guitar, fearlessly swerving out of bounds to foster the tilt-a-whirl thrill in “Triangle Club Special” and soaking the honky-tonk of “Another Place, Another Time” with slightly more docile liquid waves. Yet given all the amassed firepower, High Performance still swirls a waltz like “Married to One, in Love with Another” as pretty as can be. Ultimately, though, their juiced-up muscle is what burns down the “Between Eunice and Opelousas” finale with a flaming accordion duel.

by Dennis Rozanski


Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 2
Blog Critics Magazine
published Dec. 8, 2009

If you liked High Performance – Live From Breaux Bridge: Part 1, which I reviewed earlier this year, then the odds are better than even that you’ll like a new release from the folks at Swallow Records, the Cajun/Zydeco music specialists, because it’s pretty much more of the same.

High Performance – Live From Breaux Bridge: Part 2 is 16 additional tracks, and that’s good for those of us who like it. If you’re not a fan of Cajun/zydeco music, then you probably haven’t read this far anyway — but how can you not like the bouncing, lively sounds of the bayous? Sheesh.

The musicians are pretty much the same guys, all talented veterans with ties to other groups, but who like to get together under the High Performance name and offer up their brand of super-charged retro music. The mainstays of the group are Steve Riley, Kevin Dugas, Jamey Bearby, Jason Bergeron, Richard Comeaux, and Brazos Huval. Guest artists include a couple of additional members of the Dugas family — brother Michael and papa Nolan — along with Scott Ardoin and Paul “Bird” Delafose.

This album was recorded at Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge (a place I’ve been known to visit) but the group also appears from time to time at events like the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Included among the tracks are some good pieces with a traditional sound, such as “Tous les temps en temps,” featuring Steve Riley up front, and “Lafayette Two-Step,” an instrumental named after a city that is at the heart of Cajun Country.

But not every track adheres to the expected. There are also a couple of surprises, including Merle Haggard’s honky-tonkin’ song, “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,” well-handled here with real twang by fiddler Jamey Bearb, who also does a good job with Conway Twitty’s “Together Forever.”

And finally, for pure Cajun heart-and-soul tug, you’d be hard-put to improve on papa Nolan Dugas’ lead on his own “Wait Until I Finish Crying.” Good stuff from the swamps and bayous of South Louisiana.

by Big Geez


Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 2
BluesRag Magazine

And just like that, the party instantaneously resumes at full roar. Without so much as missing a two-step beat, High Performance picks up right where they left off when last caught Live from Breaux Bridge: pushing dancers around Mulate’s floor with a big, bold sound. Or, as they prefer to call it: “1960’s Cajun dancehall music on steroids.” So Part 2cooks just as hot as did the first half of that Louisiana night. And on the burn of seven grooving Acadians (Kevin Dugas and Steve Riley included), that’s hot. Not one – but two – fiddles twist and soar in tight formation above the pump of accordion. Then there’s Richard Comeaux’s steel guitar, which is frequently a revelation with its exquisite licks providing both liquid color and a daring sense of the wild side. Despite having the obvious brawn to wolf down Aldus Roger’s “Hick’s Wagon Wheel Special” or careen through a Clifton Chenier zydeco, HP likewise has the find touch needed to pour out honky-tonk salvation in “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.” Or soak all the blue out of “Wait Until I Finish Crying.” And led by Jamey Bearb’s crooning cry, they’re still a sucker for a good Belton Richard song, like “Drunkard’s Waltz.”

by Dennis Rozanski


Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 2
Sing Out! Magazine

Much like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who, having a need for new musical experiences, formed the bluegrass sideband Old and In the Way with his good buddy David Grisman in the early 1970s, so Dewey Balfa-mentored Cajun accordionist (and occasional fiddler) Steve Riley, along with Kevin Dugas of the acclaimed Mamou Playboys, when they put together the sextet High Performance in 2008. They proceeded to record a live gig at Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge, LA, with the commercial success of Part One forcing the release of Part Two – which is similarly brilliant. Playing often obscure local dance-hall favorites from the 1960s and ’70s, Dugas and Riley, along with ace fiddler Jamey Bearb, steel guitarist Richard Comeaux, bassist Brazos Huval and rhythm guitarist Scott Ardoin, are obviously having the time of their lives playing the lively music they grew up listening to and loving.

Their song choices and inventive arrangements thereof are, across the boards, top-notch, covering nearly all the bases – from the accelerated sprightliness of Amos Milburn’s r&b smash, “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” and Clifton Chenier’s hard-driving zydeco masterpiece “Tous les temps en temps” to Billy Edd Wheeler’s haunting, folk-styled “A Baby Again” to ill-fated Iry LeJeune’s keeningly syncopated “Grand Night Special.” From Merle Haggard’s honky-tonk country classic “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” and Nolan Dugas’ (Kevin’s father) heartfelt “Wait Until I Finish Crying,” which Nolan sings as well, to Conway Twitty’s country anthem “Together Forever,” the band’s twin fiddle and steel guitar-anchored sound is skintight and as spellbinding as a bayou sunset. Inspired instrumental jams such as “Hick’s Wagon Wheel Special” and “Accordion Two Step” add to the excitement. The real deal.

GvonT


Live from Breaux Bridge, Part 2

This “brand new” group just won every award it was possible for them to win at the recent 2010 CFMA Awards (Cajun French Music Association) – including Best Band and Best CD. They seemingly appeared over night, but in fact all members are members of other regular bands and this is sort of a diversion to pursue a passion. That passion is to breath new life into the traditional dance hall music of the 1960s and 70s, especially using the elements of twin-fiddle and steel guitar. The only true superstar in the group is Steve Riley, but here he merely blends in with other top-notch musicians.

The opener is the high energy, steel guitar infused instrumental “Hicks Wagon Wheel Special.” Other top-notch two steps are “Touse les Temps en Temps,” “Accordion Two Step” and the band’s own version of “High Performance Lafayette Two Step.” “Wait Until I Finish Crying,” with 72-year old guest vocalist Nolan Dugas and “Just A Dream” are my favorites among six waltzes.

written by Dale “LeBlanc” Johnson

Albums