Archive for the ‘The Louvin Brothers’ Tag

The Old Stuff, 2018   1 comment

The Old Stuff: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Reissue, Archival, Live, Tribute, Re-recording, and Compilation Releases of 2018:

1. Bobbie Gentry – The Girl from Chickasaw County : The Complete Capitol Masters The best box set I can recall purchasing, this 8-disc beauty features all the Capitol tracks one knew existed, and a whole bunch we didn’t. Seventy-five—count ’em—75 unreleased demos, alternate and live versions of songs, along with her complete seven album Capitol album run, even more from the BBC, and the elusive “Love Took My Heart and Mashed That Sucker Flat.”  Beautifully packaged with postcards that will never be mailed, a ton of photos, essays…and—most importantly—the music sounds wonderful. Only things missing—as far as I can tell, and it does lay outside the title of the set—is the soundtrack version of “Ode to Billy Joe” [sic] released in 1976 and a deeper dive into recording session dates and details for us liner note fools. It is a lot; I just let it play and play. (Purchased)

2. David Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole reviewed here (Serviced CD)

3. Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard- Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 reviewed here (Serviced download) 

4. Lone Justice- The Western Tapes, 1983 Lone Justice was a band that arrived when I needed it to, their debut engaging an interest in tradition-infused, countrified-rock that continues to this day. Not having had the benefit of experiencing the California-based band during their genesis, Lone Justice emerged as a stunning wonder, a slab of black vinyl equal parts (in my mind, at the time) Dolly Parton, Rachel Sweet, The Blasters, and Jason & the Scorchers. From the first listen, I knew I had found that for which I had been searching. While insiders and widely-read writers of the day ‘pooh-bahed’ the album as being too slick—and did worse to the brilliant Little Steven-produced follow-up Shelter—as a digression from their early and legendary live appearances, those of us who didn’t know better believed Maria McKee and her cohorts were damn close to the second coming of Emmylou, Gram, and all the rest.

The Western Tapes, 1983 is a six-song EP capturing the earliest demo renditions of two songs that appeared on that eponymous debut, one of which—”Don’t Toss Us Away”—sounds—begrudgingly, he admits—more incredible than ever: on first listen, by the time McKee got to the chorus a second time, I was a puddle of spent emotion. Also included is a stunning take of “The Train,” a track that eventually appeared—in a different form—on a compilation, as well as “I See It” and “How Lonesome Life Has Been,” numbers I don’t believe previously encountered and immediately loved.

A wonderful wee set, and one waits in anticipation of what Omnivore may still have planned for us. For a group with only two original albums to its name, Lone Justice’s vaults have been fair mined in the thirty-plus years since their dissolution. We can only hope what emerges next is as strong as this brief set. For newcomers, start with the Geffen albums (which, upon listening this week, remain incredible and faithful friends) and work your way to this splendid creation,the vinyl version of which looks beautiful, if unavailable at my favourite haunt; the download edition is quite satisfactory. (Serviced download)

5. Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics Not so much stripped down as reinvented, there are ten familiar songs included performed in the manner some of us prefer our music, seemingly intimate, relatively unvarnished, and certainly unplugged. “Shame On The Moon” is completely rewritten, surprisingly for the better although I never thought the original was as awkward as Crowell apparently did; it is now a reflective, spoken-word interlude amongst songs familiar. The very recognizable bulk of songs are refreshed, and a new song, “Tennessee Wedding” fits comfortably within the format. An excellent set. (Purchased CD)

6. Various Artists- Appleseed Records 21st Anniversary: Roots and Branches reviewed here (Serviced download) 

7. Various Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey reviewed here (Serviced download) 

8. Sylvia- Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imaginedreviewed here (Serviced CD) 

9. Jr. GoneWild- Brave New Waves Session I could listen to this one all week. For those of us who taped radio shows and Austin City Limits episodes, waiting for moments of magic, volumes like this are manna. With apologies to The Models, Edmonton’s third greatest band to emerge from the 80s, and therefore forever—behind only facecrime and Idyl Tea—Jr. Gone Wild released essential albums in their day, and thanks to this archival series, a set recorded for the CBC in May of 1988 has been unleashed. Brave New Waves and Brent Bambury were institutions for some of us during the formative, music-hungry years of university. [An aside to this point: at least seven and perhaps eight of the artists listed here were first heard by me during those U of A days.] These performances, including a handful of songs that would eventually appear on Too Dumb To Quit, do not disappoint with a superlative balance of rock ‘n’ twang. Their latest song “Barricades (The Hockey Riot Song)” is pretty good, too. The legend continues…(Purchased CD) 

10. Gene Clark- Gene Clark Sings for You I only started the Gene Clark deep dive this year, and I suppose my timing couldn’t have been better. The majority of these tracks were found on acetates in the Liberty Records vaults, and require absolutely no effort to appreciate. (Serviced download) 

11. The Earls of Leiscester- Live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame reviewed here (Serviced CD) 

12. Doc Watson- Live at Club 47 Do we need more archival Doc Watson? No. Are we glad there continues to be a stream of itreleased? Yup. More of the good stuff. (Purchased download) 

13. Roland White & Friends- A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels reviewed here (Serviced download) 

14. The Louvin Brothers- Love & Wealth: The Lost Recordings reviewed here (Serviced CD) 

15. Various Artists- Johnny Cash: Forever Words- The Music mentioned here (Purchased CD) 

Some wonderful stuff released this year. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.


The Louvin Brothers- Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings review   1 comment

The Louvins

The Louvin Brothers Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings Modern Harmonic

The Louvin Brothers recorded several outstanding albums (Tragic  Songs of Life, Satan Is Real, Country Love Ballads, A Tribute to the Delmore Brothers…) in a span of less than eight years, and even more timeless songs (“Cash on the Barrelhead,” “When I Stop Dreaming,” “The Knoxville Girl,” “Don’t Laugh”…). They were members of the Grand Ole Opry, recorded both gospel and secular material, sang in a manner that gave definition to ‘brother harmony,’ and likely would have been happier had they never recorded together. Ira wouldn’t manage his vices, and Charlie couldn’t tolerate them.

Their music was unadulterated old-school, radio show country, elemental even to the development of the music. The Louvins are held in the same esteem as the Carter Family, Hank Williams, and George Jones, and were as influential to bluegrass music (which they didn’t play, despite Ira’s fierce mandolin playing) as they were on country music. They have been the subject of a (uneven, and uninspired) Grammy-winning tribute album Livin’ Lovin’ Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers as well as an alternate greatest hits, annotated by notable contemporary artists, Handpicked Songs 1955-1962. They are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

This archival set is comprised of demos recorded between 1951 and 1956, prior to and during their association with Capitol Records. In extensive notes Colin Escott details the origin of these songs, and their place within the Louvins legacy. A handful of these songs are known to all who appreciate roots and Americana music, including “Are You Missing Me?” (Jim & Jesse McReynolds), “Take My Ring From Your Finger” (Johnny & Jack), “Love and Wealth” (Carl Story, The Osborne Brothers), and “Bald Knob, Arkansas” (Vern Williams, Open Road).

Over the years, several were eventually recorded by the Louvins, especially gospel numbers which largely populate the second disc of the set: “Preach the Gospel,”  “The Sons and Daughters of God,” and “Insured Beyond the Grave,” to name three. “Red Hen Hop,” presented here as the swinging and cluckin’ “Red Hen Boogie,” is one of the familiar secular songs recorded by the Louvins included. “(I’m Changing the Words To) My Love Song” goes back to the brothers’ earliest recordings.

I am far from a Louvin Brothers’ expert, but some of these songs are absolutely riveting, and as far as I can tell never appeared on a Louvin release: warning, I could be wrong! “Streamline Heartbreaker” was recorded by Roy Acuff in 1964, and as far as I can tell didn’t do much for him. But, what a song as presented here: the close, complementary harmony missing from the Acuff version is what makes this Louvin take indispensible. “That’s My Heart Talking” was cut by Boots Faye & Idaho Call in 1952; listening to the Louvins’ demo take, one truly wonders why they never recorded the song.

“Discontented Cowboy” is less essential, but one can understand the intent behind the song: have a hit with one of the day’s cowboy singers. Two of the stronger songs on the set are “Don’t Compare the Future With the Past” and “Two-Faced Heart,” songs that I can’t find record of being cut. “Bald Knob, Arkansas” is typically recorded with more than a little bluegrass pep, but is presented here with a sentimental, almost maudlin pace.

I’ve often stated most of what I know about religion comes from bluegrass and Louvin Brothers songs, and I supposed they taught me a bit more with their unadorned takes of “Born Again,” “I Love God’s Way of Living,” and “You’ll Meet Him in the Clouds.” Their voice soars on these takes, and one comprehends the importance these songs of faith had to both Charlie and Ira.

The set closes with five terrific songs, “Measured Love,” “Kiss Me Like You Did Yesterday,” and “Never Say Goodbye” among them, that are as strong a coda as a 50s vocal-based country act could hope to have within their repertoire.

This crystal-clear, two-disc set, featuring exceptional notes and photos, and available on vinyl, is absolutely essential for all who appreciate early country music and The Louvin Brothers’ significant role within it.

The Louvin Brothers- Satan Is Real/Handpicked Songs 1955-1962   Leave a comment

The Louvin Brothers Satan Is Real/Handpicked Songs 1955-1962 Light in the Attic

(Review based on digital version of the project)

Satan is Real is one of those rare late 50s country albums that has seldom if ever been out of print over the past twenty years. In fact, it has been reissued so frequently- along with and separate from Tragic Songs of Life– that one would be forgiven for dismissing this latest reissue out of hand.

Based on the digital version provided for review, I believe this would be a mistake. While many who appreciate the golden years of country music and the natural but hardly effortless harmonies of Ira and Charlie Louvin specifically quite likely already have at least one version of Satan in Real in their collection, this reimagining of the classic 1959 release appears to be well-worth the investment.

Much has been written about Satan is Real, from its (depending on one’s perspective) frightening or cheesy album art- created by the brothers themselves utilizing a rock quarry, tires, coal oil, and a hand-crafted, 16 foot cut-out of Satan himself- to its selection of carefully chosen songs that spoke to the fire and brimstone version of Christianity the brothers themselves ascribed, to the masterful performances of the Louvins and their studio musicians including Hank Garland, Buddy Harmon, Jr., and Paul Yandell.

The song is chock o’ block with classic performances, songs that went on to influence an entire generation of performers including Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Emmylou Harris, and Lucinda Williams, to name but a few. “The Christian Life,” “There Is  A Higher Power,” “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea,” and “Satan’s Crown Jewel”- some Louvin originals, others from Nashville writers- have become country music standards, much more than spiritual or gospel favourites but evidence of the Saturday night-Sunday morning dichotomy that has always existed within the world of commercial country music.

The sound of this issue is especially good; no hiss, no audio flaws are apparent.

The album comes with a companion disc of an additional 14 songs selected by artists of some renown, creating an alternate ‘best of’ that includes some of the duo’s familiar hits- “When I Stop Dreaming,” “Knoxville Girl,” and “Cash on the Barrelhead” to name but three- but which also delves deeper to album cuts such as “I See A Bridge” and “Low and Lonely.” With annotation from the artists who ‘handpicked’ the tracks- among them Kris Kristofferson, Will Oldman, Dolly Parton, and the previously mentioned Hillman, Harris, and Williams- one better comprehends the evidence that the two often troubled siblings had on their industry, both in their manner of singing and in the hits they produced.

The extensive liner notes that accompany the album, which includes late-in-life interviews with Charlie Louvin, who passed away almost a year ago, provide a context to the Satan is Real sessions as well as insight into the tension that existed between the brothers.

Without having the package in hand, I hesitate on commenting too much on what appears- from my research- to be a carefully assembled package including numerous photos and album covers, a comprehensive booklet of notes, and substantial tri-fold housing.

The inclusion of “Are You Afraid to Die” on both discs is puzzling. While one can appreciate the division of the cuts into the two distinctive albums, given the set’s running time of less than 70 minutes, a few dollars could have been saved by issuing the set as a single-disc release or- even better- having additional artists make a song selection to beef up the Handpicked Songs portion of the collection.

As Lucinda Williams writes in her notes, “Losing Charlie means that we have lost one of the last of the founding fathers of honest to god, country music.” Fitting then that Charlie and Ira are provided yet another quality issuance of their music. Who knows how the next generation will be influenced by these sounds.

Thanks, as always, for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald