The songs of Charlie and Ira Louvin had an otherworldly edge. They were successful during their era, the 1950s and early '60s, for a reason: they offered a view of life, love, loss, and the ever-present and eerie power of a god just beyond the pale with genuine wonder, fear, and pathos. Performed by superstars, legends, and others, most of the 16 tracks on Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers add nothing to the originals, but there are some fine performances here. The James Taylor/Alison Krauss reading of "How's the World Treating You" is smooth, but keeps the uneasy tension of the original. The Merle Haggard/Carl Jackson read of "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face" sticks very close to the Louvins'. The song's heartbreak and controlled anger are at the heart of the tune and expressed with just the right touch of bewilderment. "When I Stop Dreaming" by Glen Campbell and Leslie Satcher is one of the watershed cuts here. Its expression of desperation and desire is past merely poetic; it drips tears like blood and is the finest recorded Campbell vocal performance in more than a decade. Dolly Parton and Sonya Isaacs turn in easily the most authentic performance on the set with "The Angels Rejoiced." Their vocal nuances and tight harmony keep the edgy Louvin Brothers delivery at the forefront of the song, making it one of those truly scary gospel tunes. Pam Tillis, Johnny Cash, and the Jordanaires deliver "Keep Your Eyes on Jesus" with a mixture of new interpretation and fiery old country gospel that marks the split in personality this recording embodies so well. It works, mostly because of Cash's apocalyptic reading from the Bible and Tillis' earnest yearning in her vocal.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek