Satan Is Real is the Louvin Brothers' best known album, largely because of its bold title and its eccentric cover artwork, in which Charlie and Ira Louvin, surrounded by flames symbolizing Hades, pose in front of a huge, cross-eyed model of the Devil. While more than a few hipsters have found an ironic laugh in the album's over-the-top imagery, one listen to the music confirms that the Louvin Brothers weren't joking in any way, shape or form. Satan Is Real is an album of fierce, plain spoken sincerity in which the Louvins, who started their career singing gospel material, perform songs that deal with the high stakes of sin and redemption, in which Satan truly does have power to rival the Lord. The opening title track sets the tone for the set, in which a man at a church service tells the congregation how he learned that Satan's treachery is every bit as real as God's love, and while not every song is as grim -- "The River of Jordan" and "There's a Higher Power" are positively jaunty -- the temptations of life in a fallen world and the consequences of sin are touched upon in nearly every track. The Louvin Brothers wrote many of the most memorable songs on Satan Is Real, and they rarely sounded as heartfelt as on "The Christian Life," "Are You Afraid to Die" and "The Angels Rejoiced Last Night"; as usual, their harmonies are luminously beautiful, and while Ira's superb mandolin work is missed, the simple arrangements (often incorporating a subdued gospel organ) are perfectly suited to the material. You don't need to share the Louvin Brothers' spiritual beliefs to be moved by the grace, beauty and lack of pretension of this music; Satan Is Real is music crafted by true believers sharing their faith, and its power goes beyond Christian doctrine into something at once deeply personal and truly universal, and the result is the Louvin Brothers' masterpiece.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming