After some 20 years, Ace Records’ Nathan Abshire 2 LPs-on-1 CD has been totally revamped by John Broven. With stunning new mastering, the track sequencing better reflects the recording chronology in the distinct periods with the Pine Grove Boys and then the Balfa Brothers, with the addition of ‘French Blues’ to complete the Swallow output. The now-sumptuous booklet features an essay by Lyle Ferbrache based on his original research with members and families of Abshire’s Pine Grove Boys; a comprehensive song analysis with sterling contributions from Ann Savoy and Neal Pomea; a first-ever attempt at a discography with personnel; many vintage photographs; and LP and label scans. The end result is one of the most listenable and enjoyable Cajun CD releases ever, by one of the music’s most revered musicians.
Lyle Ferbrache on his landmark research on Nathan Abshire’s Pine Grove Boys:
During my first visit to Louisiana in 1987, the Tower record store in New Orleans had just opened and I bought a handful of Swallow 45s. The one that stood out was Nathan Abshire and his Pine Grove Boys performing ‘Offshore Blues’ with Thomas Langley vocalising. I liked the record so much I bought 10 copies from Floyd’s record shop in Ville Platte and gave them to friends. Who was this band? In the period that followed I bought various artists Cajun LPs and was always frustrated by the lack of comprehensive liner notes – this was in the pre-Internet days.
By this time Cajun music had really gotten a hold on me. I was so fascinated by the sound of the music I sold my near-complete collection of Excello records and went on a Cajun buying spree. I started going to Louisiana more often and soon tracked down the only surviving member of the original band, Ernest Thibodeaux, along with Bernella Frugé, wife of the band’s first steel guitarist, Atlas Frugé. With their help I was able to piece together the early history of the band … but there was nothing on Thomas Langley. The more musicians I met, the more convinced I was that I had made the right decision to concentrate on Cajun music.
My quest to research the poorly documented recording information on Nathan Abshire and his Pine Grove Boys led me to publish the magazine Louisiana Music with Andrew Brown in 2010. For the first time, accurate recording and personnel information had been accounted for. But the story only took in the band’s early years at O.T., Hot Rod and Khoury’s from 1949 through 1958. My next mission was to do the same research for the Kajun and Swallow recordings of the 1960s and 70s. My big break came when I obtained the phone number of Helen Langley, Thomas’ wife. I was saddened to learn that I was a little too late; Thomas had died a few months before. Fortunately, Helen was a big fan of the Pine Grove Boys and had most of the important information I needed to complete the band’s history. Over the years of doing interviews with her I was able to understand the band and its members, from their time recording for J.D. Miller’s Kajun label in Crowley to their final recordings at Swallow Records with Floyd Soileau in Ville Platte.
I am very proud of Ace for taking on this historically important project and giving it the respect it deserves.