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Tom Rigney--Swamp Fever 1

Photo by Michel Verlinden

Tom Rigney has been a part of the San Francisco Bay Area roots music scene for almost fifty years. In 2000, after fifteen years as the leader and electrifying violinist of The Sundogs, fiddler/composer Tom Rigney stepped out on his own with a hot new band, Tom Rigney and Flambeau. The repertoire is original, eclectic, passionate, and filled with a musical and emotional intensity that will come as no surprise to followers of Rigney’s career.

The son of baseball great, Bill Rigney, Tom is a native of the Bay Area. His musical career began after he finished his graduate studies at Harvard University, where he received a Masters Degree in Fine Arts.

Tom first rose to prominence in the music scene as the leader/fiddler of the legendary Bluegrass/Western Swing band, Back in the Saddle. He won a Bammie award in 1981 for the band’s debut recording. He also wrote their hit song, “Time and Again”, which rode the country music charts in the Bay Area for many weeks, no small achievement for an independent release.

In 1983 Tom joined Queen Ida’s Bon Temps Zydeco Band and toured the world with the Queen in for a year. It was at this time that he developed a love of South Louisiana dance music (Cajun, zydeco, and New Orleans second line grooves). These styles formed a major ingredient in the sound of his next band, The Sundogs. Teaming with songwriter Joe Paquin and slide guitarist T.J. Politzer, Tom and The Sundogs performed and recorded together for fifteen years. They released seven CD’s (and even an LP!), including two on the Rounder label. Their last recording, “Dancing Room Only”, spent eight weeks on the Americana Radio charts nationally. They toured extensively across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, performing at numerous major festivals and concerts and at more dances and nightclubs than anyone cares to remember. Their sound was a scorching blend of Cajun, blues, and roots Rock and Roll–original Americana music that struck a nerve with audiences all over the globe.

And now, with the broadening and deepening of his composing skills, and the refinement of his virtuoso technique on the violin, Tom Rigney steps out as the focal point of Flambeau, and as the creator of most the band’s music. The strong Cajun/zydeco influence is still present, as are the irresistible dance grooves that have been his specialty for more than thirty years. But there is also a deepening of the emotional range of his music and a concentration on creating moving and memorable melodies in a wide range of styles–he has literally become a “singer” on the violin. The music bursts with the energy of the bayou one minute, turns passionate with a gypsy tune the next; it can raise the roof with a Celtic reel and then touch the heart with a beautiful waltz; it can drive deep into the heart of the Blues or evoke echoes of Eastern Europe or the coast of Spain.

In 1998, Tom released the critically acclaimed “Chasing the Devil” on the Parhelion label. In 2000, he released Flambeau’s debut CD, “Red Boots and Rice”. Since then, Rigney has recorded and released a new CD (or DVD video) almost every year–from “Happy to be Here”, Flambeau’s rockin’ 2003 release that spent weeks on the Americana radio chart; to “Metamophosis“, Rigney’s highly eclectic (and highly-acclaimed) all-instrumental album; to the DVD video/CD combination “Live at the Throckmorton Theatre” (2006), to three all-blues CDs–“A Blue Thing” (2007), “Back Porch Blues” (2009), “Don’t Fight It” (2011)–each of which climbed to Number 1 on the XM/Sirius Satellite Radio Bluesville Chart, More recent releases include “Cajun Fandango” a twin fiddle collaboration with multi-Grammy winning fiddler Michael Doucet; “Swamp Fever” a live CD/DVD combination; and most recently, “Let the Four Winds Blow“, a combination of original Cajun music and classic New Orleans R and B.

There is no question that Rigney has become one of the premier blues and roots music violinists in the world, and he continues to be a prolific composer of powerfully compelling music for the violin, music whose influences come from a wide range of musical styles within the broad boundaries of American Roots Music. As a composer, as a violinist, as a band leader, Tom Rigney is a true American original.