Ray Abshire & Friends,
For Old Times Sake
(Swallow, 2003)

Ray Abshire is about as Cajun as you can get. Born outside of Gueydan, La., this accordion player started performing Cajun music at least 35 years ago. Back in the early '70s, Ray was a member of the Balfa Brothers. More recently he started a project to introduce authentic Cajun music to those outside Louisiana. For Old Times Sake is the result.

To quote the promo material, this CD is "authentic Cajun music played just like it was at house dances in the prairies of southwest Louisiana before the introduction of amplifiers. There are no drums, electric guitars, or bass on this CD, just an accordion, twin fiddles, and an acoustic guitar. It was recorded live, acoustic, and all the vocals are sung entirely in French." Of course, that means Louisiana French, which we all know is much spicier than the original -- and a lot harder to understand!

Despite the "foreign" lyrics, this music is a lot of fun to listen to. Ray may take center stage with his accordion and vocals on seven tracks, but he leaves room for his "friends." The very young but already very talented Courtney Granger is one of the two fiddle players and, in my opinion, a better singer than Ray as you will hear on four tracks. Kevin Wimmer is the second fiddler. Both Kevin and Courtney are members of Balfa Toujours. Ray's last contributing friend is Andre Michot. A member of Les Freres Michot as well as Lost Bayou Ramblers, Andre plays guitar.

For Old Times Sake is just shy of an hour in length. Eleven of the 18 tracks include vocals while the rest are instrumentals. There are several two-steps, waltzes and stomps on the CD. At first listen, many of the tracks might almost sound like variations of the same melody. This might especially be true for those of you unfamiliar with Cajun music. Where the confusion might come from is that most of us are not familiar with accordion-led music from southwest Louisiana. The same sentiment about it all sounding the same could easily be said about Celtic or new age music by neophytes to those areas. It all sounds alike -- until you actual take the time to listen to it. Then you can appreciate the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, shades that pepper this (or any) particular genre.

I should mention that I am a sucker for the violin/fiddle. So, I may be biased in liking this CD by Ray Abshire and friends. After all, there are two fiddles! Either as an introduction to Cajun music or as another album for one's Louisiana collection, I think this CD is a pretty good find. The only things For Old Times Sake is missing is a washboard and a mess of boiled crawdads!

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 8 November 2003

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