Artist: Doug Kershaw
Album: Anthology - Rare Masters 1958 - 1969
Label: Goldenlane Records
Release Date: 02/15/2016
Popularly known as “The Ragin’ Cajun,” Doug Kershaw’s impact on contemporary country music might have been as formidable as either Johnny Cash, Hank Snow or Hank Williams had it not been for the fact that Kershaw’s regional appeal was centered in his native Louisiana. And yet, listening to many of the 50 plus songs included on this sumptuous two CD set of outtakes and unreleased recordings spanning Kershaw’s career from the late ‘50s until the end of the ‘60s, there’s more than a hint of the music that would later segue-way from rock n roll into what’s known today as Americana. From the Buddy Holly-like frolic of “Love’s Enemy” and “If You’re Not Going To Love Me That’s Alright” to the obvious influence of Hank himself on “A Victim of Love Gone Wrong,” “That’s What Hurts The Most” and “Am I Lonely Tonight,” Kershaw had all his bases covered. Likewise, as a master of both fiddle and accordion — and a superb singer and showman as well — he created a sound that was uniquely his own, all the aforementioned comparisons aside. It’s a credit to his credence that his best known songs “Diggy Diggy Lo” and “Louisiana Man” spawned literally hundreds of covers, from artists as diverse as the both Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Grand Funk Railroad. Few other musicians could claim such a wide field of reference.
Anthology reaches all the way back to his earliest recordings with his brother Rusty, and while the songs on disc two are mainly acoustic demos sans full production, any of these tracks would make a perfect primer for those unaware. For that matter, they’d also provide ideal fodder for any modern band seeking to boost its own live repertoire. Despite the home grown circumstance that spawned these historic recordings, the clarity and conviction that resulted sounds as contemporary as anything in the present realms of bluegrass, Cajun or Americana overall, making the majority of these songs not only eminently listenable in contemporary settings but wholly enjoyable as well. A true American treasure who’s still active and among us at age 80, Kershaw deserves an appreciation that’s long overdue. We should all hope that this is the set that brings it to him.
– Lee Zimmerman