Born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, you might think that Cajun singer, songwriter, and accordion player Ganey Arsement makes his music on the fringes of Cajun country. Actually, Lake Charles is more of a crossroads, a meeting point between the honky-tonks of East Texas (Beaumont, Texas, the home of George Jones, is 45 minutes away), and the Cajun dancehalls of Southwest Louisiana. Ganey’s music reflects these crossroads, and on his new album, Le Forgeron, he slips as easily between the cranking heat of the Cajun accordion and the electric twang of East Texas country and electric blues.
Ganey sings in French primarily, but more than that he also writes songs in French, a relatively rare thing for Cajun artists these days, many of whom can’t speak the language fluently. But Ganey comes from a family steeped in the tradition. His great-grandfather, André Doucet, was a blacksmith and a well-known accordion player. You can hear him playing here with fiddler/vocalist Vinus Lejeune on the last track, his titular “Two-Step de Forgeron” (The Blacksmith’s Two-Step), recorded in the 1970s. Ganey grew up around his French-speaking great-grandpa, and for years wanted to update Doucet’s autobiographical song. As Ganey says in the liner notes, “His recording of Le Two Step du Forgeron, when I was but eight years old, lit a fire in me that has burned uncontrollably, ever since. It is what started me on my musical journey.” The title track to the new album, “Le Forgeron”, is his version of his great-grandfather’s signature song, a chance for Ganey to pay homage to the rich Cajun heritage that’s so inspired him, but also a chance to look forward to the sound of Lake Charles today.