The Balfa Brothers and Nathan Abshire, The 1970 NYC Concert (

There are more live recordings of the Balfa Brothers out there than most people realize, and it’s always a grand day when one surfaces. Archivists Ray Alden and Dave Spilkia recorded this inspired Balfa Brothers and Nathan Abshire performance at a church near Washington Square in lower Manhattan. Although it’s billed as the ‘The 1970 NYC Concert,’ French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bruneau recently informed Alden that it actually took place in 1972 , an easy fact for the stateside-visiting Bruneau to remember since he in the audience that day. (Alden’s tape box had an ink smudge over the recording date, thus making the date’s last digit indiscernible.)

Date misgivings aside, this recording showcases one of the spearheading groups of the Cajun music revival and demonstrates why fiddler Dewey Balfa was regarded as the world’s greatest Cajun ambassador. In between songs, the articulate, sincere life insurance salesman/school bus driver patiently provides a crash course on the music and culture, explaining the lives, families, language, and occupations that all factor into the music. Balfa illustrates how Cajun music borrowed from other genres by asking Abshire to kick off “La Valse de Belisaire,” a tune Abshire adapted from country legend Roy Acuff’s “Way Back in the Hills.”

Better yet is the discourse on the difference between his family’s traditional fiddle-driven style and the then-modern sound of Cajun music that included an electric steel guitar and rhythm section. But from the sounds of it, not everyone in the audience was a Cajun music yearling, based on the numerous requests the Balfa Brothers were happy to field. Yet, it must have been an experience where both sides felt an emotional impact. Towards the end, Balfa thanks his attentive audience by pouring out his heart: “Friends, I would like to say once more how grateful we are for this fun audience we’ve had tonight… We will bring back some very fine memories to Louisiana of this city and we will never forget you. We wish every one of you the best of luck in life.”