Louvin Brothers Eight Classic Albums

10 Apr

LouvinBros8

This four CD reissue set appears on the Real Gone label (RGMCD062) and comprises the whole of the eight LPs that were released originally on the Capitol label between 1956 and 1960. There’s no date on the package but I got it a few weeks ago.  The package includes what others suggest are probably the brothers’ two finest collections. These are ‘Tragic Songs of Life’ (from 1956) and the wonderfully weird ‘Satan is Real’ (1960) which was issued originally with one of the most distinctive album covers ever (not in this compilation sadly).

The sound quality is good but otherwise the package is a bit sparse (no liner notes or composer credits). That said, the price was less than you’d pay for a single full price CD.

I first came across the Louvin Brothers (Ira and Charlie) via composer credits on Emmylou Harris albums (‘Making Believe’ and ‘If I Could Only Win Your Love’)  and then through Gram Parsons and the Byrds (The Christian Life’ from their 1968 ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ album) before reading about their larger-than-life story in Nicholas Dawidoff’s excellent 1997 book ‘In the Country of Country’. Although the subject matter can be remarkably kitsch and sentimental or aligned to a very particular religious tradition, it is redeemed by the stonkingly fine vocal performances and great tunes.

There are 96 tracks in this collection and the ones I’ve found myself returning to are the earliest ones (‘Tragic Songs of Life’) especially the songs ‘Kentucky’, ‘Alabama’ and ‘Knoxville Girl’ .where the instrumentation is pretty sparse which allows the brothers’ harmonies to come to the fore.

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