“He was sort of reaching out and expanding on the tradition and trying to bring his music to newer and larger audiences, and to younger audiences,” Irwin said. “Now, he’s probably the most traveled of the Cajun musicians and the person people think of when they about Cajun music these days.”
Tomorrow’s performance will also serve as a history lesson, with the band explaining the stories behind many of its tunes, which are mostly sung in French.
“We always tell people a little bit of the history,” Riley said. “A lot of the songs are about the history.”
The band’s current lineup includes Riley, Kevin Wimmer on fiddle, Sam Broussard on guitar, Kevin Dugas on drums and Brazos Huval on bass.
Next Thursday, Irish band Dervish will make its Newburyport debut with a concert of traditional Celtic tunes.
“I went and saw them twice last year, once in Cambridge and once in Connecticut, and just was really taken by them both musically and personally,” Irwin said. “They love what they’re doing; they’ve seen other bands that have veered further from tradition, and they just love the traditional Irish music.”
Like Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Dervish is also celebrating its 25th anniversary. Singer Cathy Jordan has been part of the seven-member band from County Sligo, Ireland, since 1991.
“It’s been a gradual kind of easygoing, organic kind of growth,” Jordan said. “One day, you raise your head and realize you’ve been doing it for 25 years. In Irish music and folk music in general, it’s not unusual to have bands together for a long time.”
“Cathy just has a beautiful voice,” Irwin said. “They are a real band in terms of playing well together and always doing what is best for the song and the singer. They really act as a unit.”