Ray Abshire plays traditional Cajun dance music, performing regularly at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Festival International in Lafayette, where he lives. Currently, he leaves home only to play festivals and music camps. Born into a musical family – he is a cousin of Cajun great Nathan Abshire – Ray Abshire grew up during the South Louisiana “Dance Hall” era of the 1950s and 1960s and began playing professionally when he was 14.
He performed with all the well-known Cajun masters whose recordings form the foundation for students of Cajun music today; a highlight of his collaborations is the time he spent as accordion player with the legendary Balfa Brothers Band from 1969 to 1975.
Ray Abshire’s accordion style is traditional and he sings in the classic Cajun tenor high voice. Remaining true to the traditional sound he grew up with, Abshire draws from a large repertoire of songs rarely heard today, as featured on his CD, “For Old Times Sake” with fiddlers Courtney Granger and Kevin Wimmer on Swallow Records, released in 2003.
The Pine Leaf Boys, a remarkable band from southern Louisiana, play traditional Cajun and Creole music with new, unique arrangements.
The band features some of the finest players in the Cajun music scene. Accordion and fiddle player Wilson Savoy is the son of legends Marc and Ann Savoy, while master fiddler and superb singer Courtney Granger comes from the Balfa family lineage.
Bassist Thomas David was born and raised in Lafayette. He started playing drums professionally at age 8 alongside his father, Ken David, bassist with Jambalaya Cajun Band.
Born in San Felipe, Texas in 1983, singer, fiddler, accordionist and songwriter Cedric Watson developed an early love for Cajun music and moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he studied not only pure Cajun music but the Creole fiddling styles of Canray Fontenot and Bebe Carriere and was quickly acclaimed for his mastery.
A founding member of the Pine Leaf Boys, Cedric Watson formed a new band, Bijou Creole. In Bijou Creole, Watson explores the roots of Louisiana’s Creole music. Playing a variety of old-school zydeco styles, original material, and Creole traditional songs, the polyrhythmic and syncopated sounds of Africa and the Caribbean are unmistakable in this ensemble of talented musicians.
Michael Doucet (BeauSoleil, Savoy-Doucet Band) says, “To propel our Louisiana Creole culture into the future seems to be quite a task, but if one lives for the music as Cedric does, the path seems effortless.”
Along with Watson, Bijou Creole is rubboard (washboard) player-percussionist Mike Chaisson, bassist Blake Miller, guitarist Chris Stafford, and drummer Jermaine Prejean.
The Balfa name brings up memories of the renowned Balfa Brothers, who took their Louisiana roots music from the prairies of Mamou to the far reaches of the world. Balfa Toujours (Balfa always) is making sure the name will keep its place for future generations.
Led by Christine Balfa, daughter of acclaimed Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa, the group has taken generations of inspiration and created a vibrant sound all their own. Since coming together after Dewey’s passing in 1992, they’ve grown from a band known for its youth and passion into pillars of the traditional music community not only in Louisiana but throughout the folk music world. They’ve recorded several albums, appeared in numerous films and television shows, toured North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, enjoyed front cover features in roots music magazines, and taught classes in Cajun culture internationally, in both French and English.
Balfa Toujours cross many boundaries and perform in a wide array of styles, from rocking dancehalls to crowded festivals to informative concerts, without ever losing the joy of life that characterizes their culture.
Christine Balfa may be recognizable to some from her appearance in the film The Big Easy. She grew up playing triangle with her father Dewey and learned music and language from the thriving culture around Basile, Louisiana. Her singing is full of the raw emotion that enables the best Cajun singers to communicate powerful feelings directly to the heart. She collaborates on many of the group’s original songs and is the founder and director of Louisiana Folk Roots, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Louisiana traditions.
BeauSoleil has secured their position as America’s most popular Cajun group. BeauSoleil has preserved the rich Cajun musical traditions of Louisiana, while adding elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country, blues and more.
BeauSoleil translates as “beautiful sunshine.” It’s also the name of an 18th century Acadian rebel leader, Beausoleil Broussard, after whom Michael Doucet, founder, fiddler and passionate vocalist for the band, named the group.
Michael Doucet dedicated much of his life to the study of the origins of Cajun music. He studied with grand old masters such as Denis McGee and Canray Fontenot, and searched out early 78 rpm recordings and unaccompanied ballad singers. At the same time, he was constantly aware of the other musical forms around him – jazz, country, R&B and rock and roll. As Doucet once explained early in his career, “If I was going to play Cajun music, I wanted to play it right. And if I was going to change Cajun music, I have to be sure of the direction.”
BeauSoleil has numerous recording projects to its credit, including award-winning movie soundtracks. They garnered six Grammy nominations before winning Grammy gold in 1997 for Best Traditional Folk Album.
Recorded live in concert at The Barns Of Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C., in March 2, Looking Back Tomorrow: Beausoleil Live! marked BeauSoleil’s return to the first venue to serve their sizzling musical gumbo to audiences beyond Louisiana’s borders. When BeauSoleil took center stage at the National Folk Festival in 1976, an infectious musical genre, rooted firmly in the culture of a long oppressed people, boogied into the spotlight.
“When I was growing up, the word Cajun was never used,” says founder/fiddler/lead vocalist/chief songwriter Michael Doucet in the albums’s liner notes, penned by author and journalist Michael Tisserand (Gambit Weekly). “People finally started to become a little more proud of their culture. Even if you weren’t as educated as a Philadelphia lawyer, you had something to offer, to give-a way of life.”
On Looking Back Tomorrow: Beausoleil Live! BeauSoleil showcases their arrangements on traditional songs (“J’ai Ete au Bal,” “Travailler C’est Trop Dur,” “Grand Mamou”); debuts four new Doucet-penned originals (“Amede,” “Varise,” “Quoi ‘y a Toi,” and “Ma Douce Amie”); salutes pioneers Dennis McGee (“Pa Janvier”) as well as Clarence Garlow and Eddie Shuler (“Bon Temps Rouler”), and infuses Cajun flavor into rock ‘n’ roll-a BeauSoleil trademark (“It’s You I Love,” written by Dave Bartholomew and “Fats” Domino).
BeauSoleil-Doucet, along with his brother David (vocals/guitar), Jimmy Breaux (accordians), Al Tharp (bass/fiddle), Tommy Alesi (drums), and Billy Ware (percussion)-has released six albums on Rhino, garnered eight Grammy nominations over the course of their career, and won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk album in 1998 for Rhino’s L’Amour ou La Folie.
In September of 2004, Vanguard Records released Gitane Cajun, the group’s first studio album since 1999.
Record producer Chris Strachwitz is one of the recipients of the The Recording Academy’s Trustees Award. Chris Strachwitz has made his living celebrating the music he loves, roots music that forms the fabric of both American and international culture. He is the founder of Arhoolie Records and produces much of the content he releases.
To blues fans he is a legend, releasing essential works by Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Charlie Musselwhite, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Joe Williams, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Earl Hooker, and Elizabeth Cotten, and many others. Strachwitz also produces Cajun music, highlighted by his releases by
Clifton Chenier, and also focused on Mexican recordings, especially Norteño music.
The Trustees Award recognizes such contributions in areas other than performance.
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