Saturday, February 4, 2017

"La Valse de Riceville" - Nathan Abshire & Rayne-Bo Ramblers

One of the most colorful and greatest Cajun musicians of all time was the late Nathan Abshire. Abshire’s unique style came from blending traditional Cajun music with Louisiana Creole and blues music, music other early Cajun musicians largely disdained or ignored. He also ignited his performances with a spirit and joy for life that few musicians could match.1

Nathan Abshire's earliest recording sessions involved Happy Fats and his Rayne-Bo Ramblers.  During this 1935 session, the band tried their luck at bringing the accordion into their string band group.  It must not have gone over well since Happy's group became solely a string band in 1936 and remained a string band from that moment on. However, the 6-song session produced a tune named after a small community in Vermilion parish called Riceville. 
Eh, toi, tit fille, quoi t'as fais avec moi,
Te m'a quitté, chere, au soir, 
Pour t'en aller chez ta famille.

hé, c'est ma joue rose, qui va voir comment j'suis la aujourd'hui,
Tu m'as quitté dans la misère et le chagrin,
Comment j'vas faire chez moi tout seul.
Nathan Abshire
Image courtesy of Johnnie Allan & the 
Center for Louisiana Studies, 
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

In typical Nathan style, his songs were commonly named after places he was familiar with back home, such as "One Step de Morse", "Kaplan Waltz", "Gueydan Breakdown", "One Step de Lacassine" and "La Valse De Riceville" (#2174).   With Nathan on accordion and vocals, the New Orleans session had Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and Warnes Schexnayder playing the guitar, and Norris Savoy playing the fiddle.  According to author Ryan Brasseaux:
"La Valse de Riceville", a homage to Nathan Abshire's native hamlet, is a rough adaptation of the Breaux family's "Ma Blonde Est Parti".  Abshire borrows several lines directly from Amede Breau's waltz, including "tu m'as quitte... pour t'en aller chez ta famille".2 
Hey, you, little girl, what have you done to me,
You've left me, dear, this evening, 
For you've gone away to your family's house.

Hey, it's my rosy cheek (gal), who will see how I'm doing today,
You've left me in misery and sorry,
How will I go home all alone?

Happy Fats Rayne-Bo Ramblers

Not long after, Abshire abandoned the accordion in favor of the fiddle, as the “squeeze box” fell into disfavor—even in Louisiana. Abshire switched to fiddle, playing in a succession of Western swing bands up until World War II. Abshire served briefly in the army, but his illiteracy and inability to speak English led to an early discharge. Back in Louisiana (married and living in Riceville), he began working in a sawmill. A serious injury at the sawmill earned him a $500 settlement and he began repairing odds and ends at home as a matter of survival.1

It wouldn't be until after the war when several of the club musicians at the Pine Grove Club would ask him to join their small group and kick off Nathan's second career.

  2. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music By Ryan Andre Brasseaux
  3. Lyrics by Stephane F
  4. Image by Lyle F
Cajun Country, Vol. 2, More Hits from the Swamp (JSP, 2005)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got info? Pics? Feel free to submit.