Al Terry

Hickory's Cajun Hillbilly

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Though not well remembered decades after his heyday, Al Terry had some success in the mid-'50s with his laid-back brand of Cajun-flavored hillbilly music, helping to establish Hickory as one of the first independent labels to experience success in the country field. This British compilation has 26 tracks he released between 1954 and 1958, all but two of them (the 1954 single "Promise Made, Promise Broken" and "Shoot Me a Line," which appeared on Champion) from Hickory singles. Terry's brand of '50s hillbilly is more warm and engaging than exciting, with Cajun music present more as an influence than a dominant force. But if it's not remarkable, it's still pleasant fare, Terry's baritone voice projecting the kind of homey, relaxed feel you might associate with some of Tennessee Ernie Ford's material, though there aren't strong specific stylistic similarities between Terry and Ford. "Good Deal, Lucille" was the only true hit here, reaching the country Top Ten in 1954 (a slightly pop/rock-influenced 1958 re-recording is also included), and like many of the songs on this compilation has a strong boogie-influenced backbeat. More doleful, plaintive tunes with pedal steel are also present, and in the mid- to late '50s he even tried on some near-rock & roll for size. That wasn't his forte, but he sounded a bit more comfortable with the style than some other veterans who jumped (or were told to jump) aboard the rockabilly bandwagon, even getting a mild hit with one such outing, "Watch Dog." Thorough liner notes from Dave Sax give a good history both of Terry's salad years and the operations of Hickory itself at the time.

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