First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2007, Volume 14, #2
Written by John Metzger
In 2003, an array of folk, country, and bluegrass stars united to pay tribute to the legacy of the Louvin Brothers. Although the resulting effort Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers managed to snare a pair of Grammy Awards, including one for Best Country Album, the well-intentioned endeavor also was exceedingly dull, the life force of its material drained by its overly perfect production. Nevertheless, it at least succeeded in setting the stage for the return of Charlie Louvin. In spite of the presence of Elvis Costello, George Jones, Jeff Tweedy, and a host of other special guests, his recent self-titled outing — which also is his first studio recording in 10 years — is delightfully more rustic and low-key.
At its most adventurous moment, swells of electric guitar-driven feedback facilitate the portentous air of Great Atomic Power, but for the most part, the eponymous collection relies on Louvin’s weather-beaten vocals to wrench new meaning from the series of re-worked classics and well-selected cover songs that compose the affair. A sense of weariness adheres to the heartache that lurks within Must You Throw Dirt in My Face, and the gospel-bred harmonies that are draped around The Christian Life, Kneeling Drunkards’ Plea, and When I Stop Dreaming invoke the spirit of the Louvin Brothers without ever dipping into mimicry.
The highlight of the self-titled set, however, is its lone, new song Ira, on which Charlie Louvin reminisces about his older brother, who died in a car crash in 1965. The quietly devastating lament is set against a gentle, acoustic arrangement, but as the lonesome, mournful yearning in his voice reaches across the 40-year void to his sibling’s ghost, the fragility of life that hovers over most of the endeavor becomes wholly tangible. Not only is Ira a touching eulogy, but it also is the only tribute that is necessary. The rest is just icing on the cake. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Charlie Louvin is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box