What's terrific about this album is the sound of Charlie Louvin's voice. Weathered and worn by his 79 years, its fragility underscores the humanity in the morality plays he favors, like the gentle pledge of faith "The Christian Life." What's disappointing is its lack of imagination. Despite the presence of skilled contemporary songwriters like Elvis Costello and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, the only new tune is "Ira," Louvin's tribute to his late, high-tenor-singing brother. As the Louvin Brothers, Charlie and Ira took shape-note-based close-harmony singing to the pinnacle of country music in the 1940s and '50s, earning a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. On these dozen songs, Louvin's joined on vocals by George Jones, Alex McManus of Bright Eyes, Will Oldham, Bobby Bare, Tom T. Hall, Tweedy, Costello, and others, with Marty Stuart on mandolin and a crack studio band including Chris Scruggs of BR-549 and angelic vocalist Dianne Berry. Bare and Berry manage to make magic with Louvin; the rest do their best with chestnuts like "Kneeling Drunkard's Plea" and "Worried Man Blues," although Jones's voice is, sadly, ravaged, and the bursts of guitar feedback on the Louvins classic "Great Atomic Power" are absurd. Nonetheless, this album is a welcome return for a country pioneer after a 10-year hiatus from recording. --Ted Drozdowski The term "living legend" gets thrown around quite a bit, but it actually applies to Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin.
Charlie Louvin's influence on country, alt-country, and their many sub-genres, is incalculable. The unique harmonies and lyrical folk poetry of the Louvin Brothers ("among the top duos in country music history" - AllMusic.com) have inspired countless covers of their songs by such artists as Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Emmylou Harris, Uncle Tupelo, The Raconteurs (with Jack White) and Beck.
Produced by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Calexico, Candi Staton) and Charlie Louvin, the new album was recorded in Spring/Summer 2006 in Nashville. It features guest performances by Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Will Oldham, Tom T. Hall, George Jones, Bobby Bare Sr., Tift Merritt, Marty Stuart, David Kilgour, and members of Bright Eyes, Lambchop, Superchunk, Blanche and Clem Snide, among others.
The album features several Louvin Brothers classics as well as country favorites first popularized by Jimmie Rodgers, the Delmore Brothers, the Carter Family, and the Monroe Brothers. Charlie has also included a moving tribute to his late brother Ira, with whom he formed the Louvin Brothers in 1940. (Ira Louvin died in a car accident in 1965, at age 41.) Charlie will tour with his band throughout 2007, including stops at SXSW and Bonnaroo, as well as special summer appearances celebrating his 80th Birthday (July 7, 2007).