Friday, May 4, 2012
The Louvin Brothers: Ira and Charles with Instrumental Accompaniment, 1957
Today's post is a country album of mostly religious songs. You'll have to excuse the quality of the record, I thought the music was worth posting in spite of the noise. The Louvin Brothers were a country duo from Alabama who are joined here by a studio band. They were one of the great close harmony duos of country music. They started out in gospel and later gained recognition for songs about love and other themes, a couple of which appear here. The duo split in 1963 when Charlie decided to leave his brother, who had developed a reputation as a heavy drinker, to pursue a solo career. Ira died in a car accident in 1965, but Charlie continued to perform and record for much of his life, especially with a resurgence of interest in his music in the last decade. He died in January 2011 at 83 years old.
A different pressing of this album was posted on another blog with a different cover and two songs, I'll Live with God To Die No More and The Sons and Daughters of God, left out. According to discogs, this pressing was released in 1957. On a personal note, I find that I often have trouble connecting with country music because it's primarily about the lyrics and the music doesn't really speak to me. The singing and instrumentals on this album are exactly what I want out of country. The pure vocal harmonies backed up by fiddles and twangy guitars make for a rich sound.
Although it's not the best song on the album, a track called The Great Atomic Power caught my attention. It comes from the early period of the Cold War when the nuclear threat was still new. Surprisingly, (to me at least,) the Louvin Brothers don't seem too alarmed. To them, nuclear war is another doomsday scenario, a man made rapture. Like the apocalypse, nuclear war would "[blot] out the works of man" without affecting the kingdom of heaven. The Louvins sing about the importance of preparing one's soul for heaven because no one knows when the rapture will come: "will you shout or will you cry when the fire ain't from on high? Are you ready for the great atomic power?" Interestingly, the Great Atomic Power doesn't appeal to politicians to avoid a nuclear winter. Many revivalist Christians expect to see the end times during their lives and anxiously anticipate the reward that awaits them in heaven. The Louvin Brothers' mission was to prepare people for the rapture, not postpone it. Even if the end of the world were brought about by human technology, it would be a part of God's plan.