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Charlie Louvin

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I just received an advance copy of a new album (and the first in over ten years) from Charlie Louvin. Who is Charlie Louvin? Merely one of the architects of country music, and one of the greatest singers ever. He's right up there with Ralph Stanley in terms of longevity and critical impact.

The new album features contributions from Lambchop, Calexico, George Jones, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, and Will Oldham.

For some of us -- those who treasure "the old, weird America," as mulbleypeg noted in the Joanna Newsom thread -- this is news of the highest order. Here's something I wrote a couple years ago, with apologies to Joel Hartse, from whom I virtually stole the opening paragraph:

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It may be the most startling and strangest album cover in music history. In 1960 the Louvin Brothers, arguably the greatest country duo of all time, released an album called Satan Is Real. The cover art has become something of a kitsch classic. A beaming Charlie and Ira Louvin stand in the foreground, adorned in snowy white suits, arms outstretched in a come-home-to-Jesus pose. Behind them a bed of smoldering lava threatens to inundate the would-be evangelists. And in the background is the cheesy masterstroke: a 12-foot cardboard cutout of Beelzebub himself, a crude rendering of the devil complete with horns, slanted eyes, a pitchfork and vampire-like protruding fangs. It is so garish, so over-the-top, that it would have amused even the most zealous of Bible-thumping fundamentalists.

The devil looks like he

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Wow! I had no idea that Charlie Louvin was still alive. I will look forward to hearing this.

Brother harmony groups, it is it's own sub genre within country. Satan is Real is fantastic. It is worth it for the title track alone but you also get The Kneeling Drunkards Plea( I have always assumed this was a very personal song for Ira).

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I have bought the Louvin Brothers comp When I Stop Dreaming but haven't given a listen yet. I will soon.

Edited by Hugues

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Wow! I had no idea that Charlie Louvin was still alive.

Ditto. I think of him as being from my distant past.

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Here's the track listing for Charlie's new album:

1. Must You Throw Dirt In My Face (w. George Jones)

2. Great Atomic Power (w. Jeff Tweedy)

3. Blues Stay Away From Me (w. Bobby Bare Sr. & Tom T. Hall)

4. The Christian Life (w. Eef Barzalay of Clem Snide)

5. When I Stop Dreaming (w. Elvis Costello)

6. Waiting For A Train (w. George Jones)

7. Kneeling Drunkard's Plea (w. Alex McManus of Bright Eyes)

8. Worried Man Blues (w. Kurt Wagner of Lambchop)

9. Grave On The Green Hillside (w. Tift Merritt & Joy Lynn White)

10. Knoxville Girl (w. Will Oldham)

11. Ira

12. My Long Journey Home (w. Paul Burch)

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Charlie Louvin Sings Bloody Murder

Mr. Louvin's solo career is well into its fourth decade. "I wasn't at all sure I could make it as a soloist," he told me. "I gave it all I had, and I had several top-10 hits. My wife raised our three boys while I was working -- I'm married 59 years. I was lucky. I got a good woman. Not everybody gets that."

Another photo in the "Murder Ballads" package shows Mr. Louvin with the gun butt resting against a Bible upon which sits a book of sacred songs.

"When I was growing up in Alabama, my mother was a churchgoer. You didn't even have to ask her if we were going to church. My brother was called to preach. He didn't answer the call, but you could tell he knew the book. He was as good at narration as anybody I ever knew. I'm insufficient."

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Putting this book-related news here, rather than launch a new thred in the "Lit" forum. Hope no one minds.

From The Wall Street Journal's review of "Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers":

What stood between them and lasting success was brilliant, erratic Ira. He was moody and anti-social, with a "quick tongue and the kind of hard, dark good looks that the girls fell for." Tall and slender, his mandolin slung from one shoulder, he wielded an awkward charisma onstage, which was balanced by the bouncy, diminutive Charlie. But where Charlie was restrained, Ira was profligate. "Ira never had any problem convincing the ladies to do pretty much whatever he wanted. And he always had his eye on at least two."

Ira's four whiskey-fueled marriages were spectacularly violent, with Charlie often the reluctant peacemaker. One sodden night in 1963, when Charlie wasn't around, Ira tried to strangle his third wife, Faye, with a telephone cord: "Well, Faye remembered that Ira kept a little .22 pistol under the pillow, and somehow managed to get her hands on it." She then managed to shoot her husband six times. When Ira recovered, the duo resumed recording and touring, but not for long. Ira's drunken tantrums moved onstage, where he would shatter his mandolin and browbeat the audience. By 1964, Charlie had had enough, and the duo broke up. In June 1965 Ira was killed in a car accident.

I had no idea about any of this. I thought Louvin fans might be interested in the book. Hence, the post.

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The New York Times reviews Satan Is Real.

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