CD review: The Whitstein Brothers – Old Time Duets
This album was released in 1990, but after 23 years of listening to it, it still shines. At first listen you’d think you were hearing an old Louvin Brothers recording cleaned up by some miracle of modern technology. This is the real thing, all right, as far as this type of music goes, clean and crisp like you’ve never heard on any of the classics. That’s as far as the Whitstein Brothers dip into modern technology, however — much to the listener’s benefit. This CD presents — just as the title implies — old-time duets at their finest, unadorned and plain, accompanied by Robert’s acoustic guitar and the mandolin. and tenor guitar of Charles.
The Whitsteins possess two of the finest voices you’ll ever hear — totally honest and unpretentious, and they hit every note right on target. It’s hard to beat the empathy and interaction when siblings sing together. One can’t help but think of the other great brother acts – names like Osborne, Delmore, Louvin, Monroe, Stanley, Wilburn, McReynolds all come to mind – and there are examples in all genres. I think it’s especially evident in music such as this. There’s nothing like it.
There’s a little bit of everything from the genre here on this disc — songs for mom and dad, unrequited love, murder ballads, and, of course, some pure gospel. All are absolutely perfectly rendered, with obvious love, by these Louisiana natives. The brothers have other albums available — and all the ones I’ve heard are good. Most of the others include other musicians — the fact that this disc features just the two brothers, with no evidence of any overdubbing, makes it my favorite. I honestly can’t list a favorite tune — I love them all. The only was to make it better would be to make it longer.
Robert passed away in November of 2001. Charles has since made some fine recordings with Charlie Louvin (who once said that Charles’ voice was the closest to his late brother Ira’s that he had ever heard) and Jesse McReynolds. Great music never dies – sometimes the shape shifts slightly, but its soul lives on.
Some samples from the album:
discography (as complete as I can manage on short notice):
The Whitstein Brothers – Rose of my heart (Rounder, 1984)
The Whitstein Brothers – Trouble ain’t nothin’ but the blues (Rounder, 1987)
The Whitstein Brothers – Old time duets (Rounder, 1990)
The Whitstein Brothers – Sing gospel songs of the Louvins (Rounder, 1994)
The Whitstein Brothers – Sweet harmony (Rounder, 1996)
Charlie Louvin & Charles Whitstein – Hoping (Copper Creek, 1992)
Jesse McReynolds & Charles Whitstein – A tribute to brother duets (Pinecastle, 2005)