Charlie Louvin, Charlie Louvin

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The surviving Louvin brother gets help on his newest record.

Country music is as obsessed with (and deferential to) tradition as that other American pastime, baseball. From the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic 1972 double Will the Circle Be Unbroken to Johnny Cash's late-era renaissance, country tribute albums shade towards fantasy camp, giving initiates a chance to brush elbows with their idols. Such is the case with the lone surviving Louvin Brother, Charlie, and his first album in a decade. And the line-up is deep indeed: Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Will Oldham, members of Clem Snide, Lambchop and Bright Eyes. Even George Jones sings alongside Charlie on two numbers. (Gram Parsons is kicking his ash up in heaven now, having died three decades too soon.) Rural music adepts, be it gospel, country, or bluegrass, the Louvin Brothers close harmonies sang of the longing and depression inherent to this terrestrial realm. While Louvin Brothers staples like “The Christian Life” and “When I Stop Dreaming” remain heartrending, Charlie's tremulous voice fissures with sorrow on the penultimate “Ira,” about his brother who died in a car accident in 1965. To this day, he wishes they could play together again.