Album Review

Rusty & Doug Kershaw - Greatest Hits

Rusty & Doug Kershaw - Greatest Hits

Maybe if they hadn't taken a pass on "Bye Bye Love", they'd be the household names, not the Everly Brothers, who they often resembled. Raised in Cajun country on an island just off of Louisiana and, like the Everlys, first appearing onstage as kids in family bands, the Kershaw brothers had just a handful of hits, but they made a large musical contribution in bringing Cajun sounds into the pop mainstream. Previously available compilations of Rusty and Doug's vintage 1950s country and Cajun rockabilly records have been slapdash and unrepresentative; this one, with twenty cuts recorded for Wesley Rose's Hickory label from 1955-70, shows what they could do. The earliest sides here are built on sweet close harmony in a Louvin Brothers mode ("Can I Be Dreaming", "So Lovely Baby"), but by 1957 the beat reaches boogie speed, and teenage pop soon follows -- some tunes ("Sweet Thing") supplied by the same Bryants who offered up so many Everly and Osborne Brothers hits. These Rose-produced mid-'50s sides feature Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer on guitar and piano. Here, they play behind Doug Kershaw's fiery Cajun fiddle -- introduced subtly at first, then taken right up front. For country or rockabilly records of the time, that was something else. The Kershaws turned to outright rock 'n' roll in '58 ("Hey, Sheriff", "Hey Mae") and found true success with that leap to the outright Cajun beat and sounds, which took them to the charts in '61 with the rightly famous "Diggy Liggy Lo", "Louisiana Man" and "Cajun Joe". The late Rusty Kershaw never really caught on as a guitar-playing solo act. Doug Kershaw's mind-boggling "Ragin' Cajun" fiddle remakes of the brothers' hits made him a country-rock star all over again in the late '60s -- but the fine and timeless country and rockabilly sounds of the brother act a decade before was largely obscured along the way. Their return is welcome.