Brothers Charlie and Ira Louvin rank among the top duos in country music history. In the 1950s, The Louvin Brothers defined the now-classic sound of two-part country harmony singing.
The combination of Ira Louvin's incredibly high and smooth tenor with Charlie's melody tenor has had a tremendous influence on generations of musicians. A new tribute album to The Louvins pays homage to that sound.
On the new album Songs of the Louvin Brothers, you'll hear Glen Campbell singing Charlie Louvin's lines in "When I Stop Dreaming," while Nashville songwriter Leslie Satcher takes the high tenor part in a new version of the Brothers' hit song from 1955.
While the names of Charlie and Ira Louvin may not be immediately recognizable, fans of classic rock, pop, and country have likely encountered the duo without ever realizing it. Many performers, including the Everly Brothers, were influenced by the Louvin Brothers' way of singing harmony.
But the Louvins weren't famous just because of their singing. Their songwriting, which includes stories of both heartbreak and humor, is responsible for a lot of records being sold by hundreds of artists including Johnny Cash, The Byrds, and Mark Knopfler.
That range explains why the 15-song disc Livin' Lovin' Losin' is so interesting, especially when compared to some of the other recently-released tribute discs.
Another key is producer Carl Jackson, himself a fine singer and songwriter. For this project, Jackson teamed up with some of the finest names in pop and country music. The result is a tribute that not only captures the spirit of the original performer, but is also interesting enough to stand on its own. In other words, the collaborations by duos including Patty Loveless and Jon Randall, Vince Gill and Terri Clark, and Marty Stuart and Del McCoury have appeal, even if you've never heard of The Louvin Brothers.
Bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent and Joe Nichols set the tone for the CD with their version of the Louvins' "Cash On The Barrelhead." It's the story of a man who's met at every turn by folks who won't help out … until they see money.
On the album's second cut, "My Baby's Gone," Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell team up for one the highlights of a disc loaded with stellar performances.
The liner notes for Livin' Lovin' Losin': The Songs of the Louvin Brothers include some interesting stories about the recording sessions for the tribute CD. For example, Merle Haggard's contribution, "Must You Throw Dirt In My Face," was recorded in a motel room in Oxford, Mississippi. That's not because the room has historical significance or amazing acoustics. It's because that's the only place that Haggard, who really wanted to be a part of the project, could hook up with producer Carl Jackson.
Fittingly, The Louvin Brothers tribute closes with a trio of gospel songs. Despite their chart hits, the duo was marketed primarily as a country gospel group up until the time they joined the Grand Ole Opry in the early-1950s. "Keep Your Eye On Jesus" finds Pam Tillis singing with The Jordanaires, and features one of the final performances by the late Johnny Cash.