Ira Louvin (mandolin, vocals) and his brother Charlie (guitar, vocals) are now regarded as country legends and deservedly so, although their status belies their comparative lack of hit records. Actually, there aren't many of their own songs on this compilation, which features all their hits and much else besides that I found instantly recognizable. Their influence on subsequent generations depends more on Gram Parsons and those who followed him, notably Emmylou Harris, than on mainstream country artists of the sixties and early seventies who were around before Emmylou recorded Pieces of the Sky.
The Louvin brothers had country hits with songs they didn't write (My baby's gone, How's the world treating you?, Must you throw dirt in my face?) as well as their own songs (When I stop dreaming (their first hit), I don't believe you've met my baby (their only #1 hit), If I could only win your love (covered by Emmylou and a country hit for her, it was also a track on Pieces of the Sky, Cash on the barrelhead and Are you teasing me? The Louvin brothers had country hits with You're running wild, Hoping that you're hoping, Don't laugh, Plenty of everything but you and I love you best of all, every one of them excellent original songs although I don't remember hearing any of them before. Another country hit for them, and for which the brothers claimed writing credits is Knoxville girl, an adaptation of a traditional folk song of British origin.
The Louvin brothers recorded plenty of gospel songs as well as secular songs, but apart from the hits, they are remembered for the album Satan is real. All the tracks from that album are featured here, notably Satan's jeweled crown (recorded by Emmylou and released on Elite Hotel and The Christian life (recorded by Gram Parsons). Emmylou recorded at least one other Louvin Brothers song, \you're learning, released on Roses In The Snow, and you'll find the original version here.
The Louvin brothers were heavily influenced by the Delmore brothers , who were country stars in the 1930s, and recorded Tribute to the Delmore Brothers, for which all tracks are included here though not in the original order. These include two train songs (Midnight special, Freight train boogie) and many other great songs of which my favourite is Put me on the trail to Carolina, which is correctly titled in the track listings, but incorrectly in the booklet notes and session details, where in both cases it is misprinted as Put me on the train to Carolina - an easy mistake to have made. Apart from the songs already mentioned, the other songs that the Louvin brothers covered and which I recognized from other sources include We could, Tennessee waltz, Making believe, Send me the pillow that you dream on, At mail call today and Soldier's last letter.
It is interesting to contrast the long-term legacy of the Louvin brothers, who had a few hits and who might have been forgotten but for Gram Parsons, with Webb Pierce, who was a massive country star of the fifties and who had a lot of country hits including many number ones, yet who is largely forgotten these days. At least the legacy of the Louvin brothers is secure for the foreseeable future thanks to this and other releases.
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