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Charlie Louvin preview

| December 12, 2007 | 0 Comments

Charlie Louvin
Schubas, Chicago
Sunday, December 16, 2007

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Charlie Louvin is older than the Grammys. Though nominated at 80-years-old for an album that turns a blind eye to modern country music, you can probably guess he doesn’t care about them, either.

It speaks volumes that Louvin, one half of legendary country duo The Louvin Brothers, would record his self-titled album on Tompkins Square with relative outcasts rather than the Nashville elite. Everyone knows country, as a marketing scheme, sucks, but opening with a track that bellows “You’ve already put big old tears in my eyes/must you throw dirt in my face?” turns the industry’s offenses personal.

Charlie and Ira Louvin were responsible for hits like “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” “You’re Running Wild,” “Cash On The Barrelhead,” and “Knoxville Girl,” but also had a profound, resonating effect on people like Johnny Cash (who always ate soda crackers before gigs after a run-in with Charlie), The Everly Brothers, and Gram Parsons. Their pure harmonies were gleaned from Christian bluegrass, and even after they shelved overt gospel elements they kept their integrity by not trading it in to chase rock ‘n’ roll. Ira died in a 1965 car wreck; Charlie continued recording with moderate success through the ’90s.

As for the new album, Jeff Tweedy gets to refashion Uncle Tupelo’s version of “Great Atomic Power” with its writer under shards of feedback, while appearances by Elvis Costello, Will Oldham, George Jones (redeeming himself in old age), and Tift Merritt reaffirm the Louvin legacy without raping it to high heaven. While Charlie’s at half-power without his late brother, he never dominates nor capitulates on this record. Instead he guides, as only someone of his advanced age could, trying to re-establish country as a way of life, not a commodity.

— Steve Forstneger

Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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