Heart of Louisiana: Cajun Jam Sessions

Bayou Lafourche has been called the "longest main street in the world". It is the backbone of the Cajun communities of Southeast Louisiana. It's an area that clings to its traditions and its music.

The music comes from the Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux - part of the Jean Lafitte National Park. You can hear a Cajun jam session every Monday evening that mixes professional musicians with amateurs who love the music and play along as best they can.

Jerry Moody is a perfectionist when it comes to Cajun songs. He's collected more than 3,000 tunes, and he sorts through recordings to find the best, most authentic versions.

Jerry Moody "The songs we do are songs that have meaning to us. So we take them, we learn them, and then we do them. There's so much power in the words of the music that the old Cajun men wrote," Moody says.

Moody grew up in southwest Louisiana and learned to speak French from his grandmother. But he didn't take up the accordion until four years ago at age 57. His wife, Judy Pringle, is from Portland Oregon and will never forget the first time she heard Cajun music.

"My older uncle said, Jerry, if you want to talk French, you got to turn your tongue the other way. So to understand Cajun lyrics you have to kind of turn your mind another way in order to understand what's buried in the meaning of those songs because it's not always obvious," said Moody.

"I thought oh my gosh, what is that? I just thought, how can anybody listen to that?" said Moody's wife Judy.

Depending on where you go in south Louisiana you can hear different styles of Cajun music. Most of the songs are the same but the instruments that are played can be different.

"Most of the music down here has always been fiddle or guitar based, so when we started doing music with the according style down here is something new," said Moody.

The magic of these songs is in the lyrics, and one of Moody's favorites is about life along Bayou Lafourche.

"And the second part of the song is, there are none that are rich and none that are poor, just hard working Cajuns trying to make a living," Moody sings.

It's the lyrics that have drawn Judy Pringle to learn to speak and sing in French.

"It tells the story of somebody's life, of some event in their life or series of events. It's absolutely from the heart and soul," Pringle said.

The songs are the soundtrack of a unique way of life, a rich Cajun culture that still clings to the land along Bayou Lafourche.

Those Cajun jam sessions are held every Monday evening from 5 to 7pm at the Acadian Cultural Center in downtown Thibodaux. Bring a guitar, accordion, fiddle, a triangle or you dancing shoes and enjoy the show. Best of all, it's free. For more information, go to http://www.nps.gov/jela/wetlands-acadian-cultural-center.htm