Tuesday, February 24, 2009

[225] Charlie Louvin

In the March 2009 issue of 225 Magazine.

Back when I was a thrift-store record fiend, one of my holy grails was the 1958 country gospel album Satan Is Real by The Louvin Brothers. The cover featuring Charlie and Ira Louvin in white Western suits singing on a fiery infernal plane looked like the ultimate album kitsch. I never did come across it. Years later, I fell for The Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo, particularly the harmonies and unapologetic moral declaration “The Christian Life,” and I was surprised to trace that very song back to the Louvin Brothers and Satan Is Real. I started picking up the Louvin collection and found it contained melodies and arrangements that trumped any kitsch value their covers previously held for me.

The Louvin Brothers disbanded in 1963, and Charlie Louvin had a couple of solo country hits in the mid-1960s with “See the Big Man Cry” and “I Don’t Love You Any More.” Fortunately a number of hip listeners kept up with Louvin, and in 2007, Tompkins Square Records released Charlie Louvin, a collection of classic country gospel delivered in his weathered voice and accompanied by Elvis Costello, George Jones and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. That led to the reissue of many of his classic albums, a guest spot on Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, two new records of his own and a 2009 GRAMMY nomination for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album.

Louvin will be in town April 3 for a rare, intimate performance at the Red Dragon Listening Room at the venue’s new location at 2401 Florida Street. Contact Chris Maxwell at cmaxwell@premier.net for tickets. I’m personally thrilled to witness a national treasure like Louvin in person, but a little part of me regrets not ever tracking down a copy of Satan Is Real for him to sign. charlielouvinbros.com

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