On the first Sunday of each month, Tom Pierce's Fiddle Shop in the town of Arnaudville is filled with music.
Pierce says, "People just keep coming back month after month. People come, they eat, they have coffee and when they feel like playing, they play."
Tom started the Sunday jam sessions about five years ago as a way to support his music store, where he repairs, rents and sells stringed instruments. On most days, you find Tom sitting at his workbench, overlooking tree-shaded Bayou Fuselier as it meanders through the center of the Arnaudville, a small town settled by French-speaking Cajuns.
Pierce says, "I just love music, I just surround myself in it. Although all day while I work, I don't have any music on, I just work because it's peaceful. "
Tom is far from being Cajun. He was born in Massachusetts, worked in a Boston shipyard, and then worked in Maine for 30 years before retirement. But the woman he married wanted to move to south Louisiana because he says she loved dancing to Cajun music.
He says, "So we ended up driving around, got lost in Arnaudville and I said, ‘Well, this is a nice place,' so this is where we ended up. "
One Sunday each month, the quiet is replaced by an assortment of musicians who swap songs, instruments , chairs and stories. It's a free-wheeling jam session that can last for hours.
By mid afternoon, Tom's Fiddle and Bow is packed with musicians. You've got French Cajun music in the front room and bluegrass on the back porch.
Out back, the lyrics are all sung in English. A bayou breeze mixes with the sounds of old-time country and bluegrass.
Musician Gene Wilson says, "One of the secrets of it is the fact that, well, you know the old saying, ‘Fish and relatives smell after three days…' You have a big jam session and everybody's friends and will leave here liking each other and speaking highly of each other because we don't know each other."
The musicians come and go throughout the afternoon. The music lasts until sunset, but it can go much later.
Pierce says, "Sometimes we try to beat the record and the record now is 9:12 in the evening that we played until. So we're trying to break out eventually."
Whether it's a country ballad, a Cajun waltz or bluegrass licks, you notice after a while that the songs always end the same way, with a smile.
You can check out the jam sessions at Tom's Fiddle and Bow in Arnaudville on the first Sunday of each month. For more information, go online to http://tomsfiddleandbow.com.