The Louvin Brothers

Nearer My God to Thee

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The Louvin Brothers released their first record in 1947, but it wasn't until 1955 that they finally scored a major hit record with the romantic ballad "When I Stop Dreaming." It was a love song that finally brought stardom to the Louvins, but they started out as a gospel act, and once they achieved enough success to earn a measure of creative freedom, they often returned to their roots in sacred music, and Nearer My God to Thee was their first full album of spiritual music for Capitol Records. While the Louvins were gifted songwriters as well as superb vocalists, the majority of Nearer My God to Thee is devoted to classic bluegrass gospel numbers, and Charlie and Ira sing "Are You Washed in the Blood?" and "Lord, I'm Coming Home" as if they'd been singing them most of their lives...which they probably did. The harmonies that were always the Louvin Brothers' hallmark are typically marvelous here, brimming with passion and fervor, and Ira's mandolin work is equally impressive, capable of carrying the melodies while revealing a surprising degree of nuance. And while classic hymns dominate Nearer My God to Thee, originals like "Thankful," "I Can't Say No," and "I Steal Away and Pray" confirm they hadn't lost touch with their talents as composers. Like most of the Louvin Brothers' work for Capitol, Nearer My God to Thee was produced with admirable restraint, with the clarity and hi-fi audio of the countrypolitan era married to the straightforward simplicity of a vintage field recording, and decades after its first release this music sounds as fresh and as inspiring as the day it was recorded.

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