Personnel: Wayne Toups (vocals, accordion); Kix Brooks (vocals); Bobby Terry (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar); Freddie Pate (electric guitar); Lee Roy Parnell (slide guitar); Mike Johnson (lap steel guitar, dobro); John "Chank" Jeansonne (mandolin, fiddle); Adrian Boudreaux, Rick Lagneaux (piano, organ, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards, drums); Kevin McKendree (piano); Darrell Toups, James Stroud (percussion); Gale Mays, John Wesley Ryles, Angela Primm (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Jake Burns.
Recording information: Colemine Studio; Dockside Studio; Electric Comeaux Land; LOUD Recording.
Photographers: Kevin Ste. Marie; Casey Toups.
Wayne Toups won a Grammy for 2011's Band Courtbouillon, the collaborative standards album he recorded with Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy. His last studio album of new material was 2004's Whoever Said It Was Easy. (2005's Reflections of the Past offered reworkings of tunes he'd cut previously.) Life intervened after that, with his arrest, conviction, and prison sentence for a drug offense, getting clean, earning his GED, and becoming a father. This self-titled album is more than a comeback offering, it's Toups re-introducing himself as a great singer of contemporary music while remaining true to himself as an artist. Co-produced with James Stroud and recorded in Nashville over three years, Toups is in excellent voice, and he leads a band of seasoned vets, friends and young guns. While the accordion doesn't drive every song, it's ever present. Toups crosses over and back from modern country to rock, zydeco, and rhythm & blues with an ease, grit, and grace that groove and inspire. The date kicks off with "Ain't Love Sweet," penned by longtime friend Hunter Hayes. A I-IV-V boogie pattern on fat guitars, chugging accordion, and lockstep drums introduces Toups and a female backing chorus. This is where vintage Motown meets NOLA R&B. The set's first single, "A Good One," is a honky tonk weeper with gorgeous, whining steel guitars and a wrenching vocal. "Lookin' to Go Jukin'" contains swelling rock guitars, soaring backing choruses, and a meaty slide guitar riff atop a zydeco choogle -- it has a great accordion break to boot. "I'm Alive" is one of two songs Toups co-wrote with Randy Boudreaux. It's an autobiography framed in country, recounting his trials, the redemption he found in his wife's love, and his gratitude. But the tip changes immediately with the rocking, National Steel-fueled blues in Craig Fuller's "Night Train to New Orleans." The set closes with a zydeco boogie on "I Can't Live" as Toups and band swagger and swing. Like Lowell George on Thanks I'll Eat It Here, and Doug Sahm on S.D.Q. '98, Wayne Toups offers a reinvention of the accordion master as a fine interpretive singer. His voice contains the experience and emotion of hard living and survival. But like his forbears, he has the skill to communicate it with exceptionally appealing, accessible music that could drive any party or road trip. Killer. ~ Thom Jurek
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- The Band Courtbouillon (Riley, Steve (Accordion))