Balfa Toujours
Live At Whiskey River Landing
Rounder (

cd cover As much as the rickety dancehalls were a vital part in Cajun music lore, in recent years they've virtually disappeared, giving away to the restaurant joints that's more suitable for grandmas and higher tabs. Yet, one in particular, Whiskey River Landing still symbolizes the old-time dancehall and has become the Sunday hang-out with its charged ambience and its picturesque location along the Atchafalaya Basin.

It's for these reasons Balfa Toujours elected to do their first live project following the well-received, homespun intimacy of La Pointe. Unsurprisingly, they waste no time bolting out of the gate with the lively "La Chandelle est Allumée" and immediately rip into the celebratory "Whiskey River Special." Almost without saying, it becomes a contest of endurance between the band and its dancing revelers. As Balfa Toujours plays harder and harder without restraint, likewise rises the intensity of their followers. After each song, the crowd claps and cheers madly as exuberance runs rampant here. Oftentimes during the tunes, there's screaming as if this were an amusement park roller coaster ride.

"La valse des pins"
Maybe it is. Waltzes like "La Valse des Pins" and "C'est Tout Perdu" pound you silly as if you were between the dips. Gale force two-steps like "Chez Geno:" and "Platin Two-Step" uncannily resemble the adrenaline-rush speeding down the rails. Drummer Todd Aucoin pushes the beat wonderfully but on three cuts, zydeco stallion Geno Delafose gets behind the traps to whip it mercilessly. Everyone seems to maintain but a gorgeous twin fiddle duet, "Le Reel Frugé," and the swinging, bluesy "The Tow Truck Blues" enhanced by Kevin Wimmer's slow bow drags are welcomed opportunities to ingest major quantities of oxygen back in your lungs.

But it's not to say you can eat to the beat without appreciating the deep set list presented here. Besides the old and new originals, other selections tie into the Balfa family legacy like the gliding "Don't Beak My Head" from Christine's father Dewey and the frolicking fiddle tune of "Mon Vieux Wagon" from Uncle Will Bolfa. Dirk Powell shines on the melodic Hadley Fontenot staple, "Frank DuPuis a Pris Ma Femme." (Fontenot was one of the Balfa Brothers' accordionists.)

About the endurance contest between the band and the dancers, who won? It was a draw and a magnificent one at that. - Dan Willging

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Audio: "La valse des pins"
Traditional, arr. Balfa Toujours (p)2000 Crying Bayou Music)
(c)2000 Rounder Records

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