The Second Disc

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Just a Little Louvin: Classic Country Duo Rediscovered By Light in the Attic

with 4 comments

When the time came to fete the Louvin Brothers with a tribute album, the stars came out: James Taylor, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Alison Krauss and Merle Haggard were just some of the artists featured on 2003’s Grammy-winning Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers.  All of those musicians had openly admitted their debt to Charlie and Ira Louvin, a.k.a. Charlie Elzer Loudermilk (1927-2011) and Ira Lonnie Loudermilk (1924-1965).  Though Ira’s untimely death curtailed what should have been a lengthy career, the music recorded by The Louvin Brothers between 1947 and 1963, roughly, still is influential today to any singer who has ever picked up the microphone to join another in harmony.  The brothers synthesized folk, gospel, bluegrass and honky tonk into a sound that was distinctly Louvin.  (They came from a musical family; their cousin John D. Loudermilk authored such songs as “Tobacco Road,” “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” and “Indian Reservation.”)

The folks at Light in the Attic are shining their light on these Baptist music-makers from Alabama who first began recording in the 1940s.  By the time of their signing with Capitol Records in 1952, they were already stars, and used the major label’s resources to focus their music in a more secular direction.  In 1955, The Grand Ole Opry welcomed them with open arms.   Though their music had frequent spiritual overtones, there was always a darkness lurking beneath the surface (or sometimes, on the surface!).  Older brother Ira fell victim to a drinking problem that finally caused his brother Charlie to walk away from the duo in 1963.  Both brothers continued to record as solo artists, but a drunk driving accident (ironically caused by the other driver) claimed Ira’s life in 1965.  Charlie lived until 2011, long enough to see the Brothers’ legacy embraced by artists of every stripe.  Light in the Attic is celebrating the Louvin legacy with four new releases: one 2-CD set, and three single LPs.

Read on after the jump!

At the center of the campaign is the album Satan is Real, graced by one of the strangest covers in popular music history.  The 1959 LP was influenced by the brothers’ southern Baptist childhood, and the powerful title track’s spoken recitation affirms the existence of the devil himself.  Satan makes an appearance on the album’s notorious cover, depicted on a 12-foot-tall piece of plywood.  The brothers surround him in a rock quarry, while fire and brimstone, naturally, surround them.  It’s a crime that more people are familiar with the album cover than its music; it also features “The Christian Life” (covered by The Byrds on their country-rock breakthrough Sweetheart of the Rodeo), and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Louvin Brothers’ catalogue.  It’s a concept album, but far-removed from the subject and style of, say, Capitol labelmate Frank Sinatra’s groundbreaking concept LPs!  Songs include “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea,” “The Drunkard’s Doom” and “Satan’s Jeweled Crown,” just to name three!  Light in the Attic’s vinyl reissue preserves its original packaging, plus new liner notes and period photos.  It has, of course, been remastered.

Satan is Real forms the first disc of the 2-CD set in this reissue program.  The second disc of this typically lavish deluxe edition includes Handpicked Songs 1955-1962.  Another calvalcade of stars has come out to curate 14 tracks performed by the Louvin Brothers.  Among those who have personally selected these cuts for your listening pleasure: Beck, Emmylou Harris, Will Oldham, Kris Kristofferson, Jim James, Dolly Parton and others.  The set’s 40-page booklet includes liner notes by historian Jessica Hundley as well as period photos, comments from those artists, the original liner notes, discographical information and much more.  Handpicked Songs will also be available as a stand-alone LP.

The final release in this program is Tragic Songs of Life.  Originally released by Capitol Records in 1956, it was the Louvin Brothers’ first LP for the label.  Ken Nelson produced its 12 tracks, described in its liner notes penned by Jessica Hundley as songs that “reflected the torment, tragedy, and terror of the human condition.” Like Satan is Real, this deluxe LP reissue features the album’s original artwork, a contemporary essay, rare period photos, and remastered audio.

Are you ready to dive into the strange and beautiful world of The Louvin Brothers?  All four releases are available now from Light in the Attic Records!

The Louvin Brothers, Handpicked Songs 1955-1962 (Light in the Attic LITA 074, 2011 – LP and CD)

  1. Almost Persuaded – Handpicked by Mark Lanegan
  2. My Baby’s Gone – Handpicked by Graham Nash
  3. The Great Atomic Power – Handpicked by Beck
  4. I See A Bridge – Handpicked by Emmylou Harris
  5. Alabama – Handpicked by Will Oldham
  6. When I Stop Dreaming – Handpicked by Lucinda Williams
  7. Low And Lonely – Handpicked by Jim James
  8. Knoxville Girl – Handpicked by Kris Kristofferson
  9. Scared Of The Blues – Handpicked by Devendra Banhart
  10. Don’t Laugh – Handpicked by Chris Hillman
  11. You’re Running Wild – Handpicked by Zooey Deschanel
  12. Are You Afraid To Die – Handpicked by The Black Angels
  13. Cash On The Barrel Head – Handpicked by Dolly Parton
  14. I Wish It Had Been A Dream – Handpicked by M. Ward

Track 1 from Keep Your Eyes on Jesus, Capitol T-1834, 1963
Track 2 from My Baby’s Gone, Capitol T-1385, 1960
Track 3 from MGM single K-11277, 1952
Track 4 from The Great Gospel Singing, Capitol LP T-1193, 1959
Tracks 5 & 8 from Tragic Songs of Life, Capitol LP T-769, 1956
Track 6 from Capitol single F-3177, 1955
Track 7 from Two Different Worlds, Tower LP DT-5038, 1966
Track 9 from Capitol single 4506, 1961
Track 10 from Capitol single F-3630, 1957
Tracks 11 & 13 from Capitol single F-3523, 1956
Track 12 from Satan is Real, Capitol LP T-1277, 1959
Track 14 from Capitol single F-4117, 1959

The Louvin Brothers, Satan is Real (Capitol T-1277, 1959 – reissued Light in the Attic LITA 073, 2011 – LP and CD)

  1. Satan is Real
  2. There’s a Higher Power
  3. The Christian Life
  4. The River Jordan
  5. The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea
  6. Are You Afraid to Die
  7. He Can Be Found
  8. Dying From Home, and Lost
  9. The Drunkard’s Doom
  10. Satan’s Jeweled Crown
  11. The Angels Rejoiced Last Night
  12. I’m Ready to Go Home

The Louvin Brothers, Tragic Songs of Life (Capitol T-769, 1956 – reissued Light in the Attic LITA 070 – LP)

  1. Kentucky
  2. I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight
  3. Let Her Go, God Bless Her
  4. What is Home Without Love
  5. A Tiny Broken Heart
  6. In the Pines
  7. Alabama
  8. Katie Dear
  9. My Brother’s Will
  10. Knoxville Girl
  11. Take the News to Mother
  12. Mary of the Wild Moor

Written by Joe Marchese

November 14, 2011 at 13:13

4 Responses

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  1. No doubt these will be nice. Is there ay Louvin stuff on here that is not on the Bear Family boxes?

    Robert Lett

    November 14, 2011 at 13:26

  2. Really happy to see that ‘Satan Is Real’ is getting reissued on vinyl! 🙂


    November 14, 2011 at 14:38

  3. Knoxville Girl still scares the bejeezus out of me!

    Mark Bumgardner

    November 14, 2011 at 22:01

  4. I wish I liked the music because that’s one of the greatest album covers ever!

    Mark Judkins

    November 15, 2011 at 15:51

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