In the 1950s, a time when Nashville was beginning to sand off the rough edges of country music and move in a more "modern" and pop-influenced direction, the Louvin Brothers were at once a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the music's Appalachian traditions. The close harmonies of Ira and Charlie Louvin reflected the influence of earlier family harmony acts such as the Delmore Brothers, and Bill and Charlie Monroe, but few (if any) duos in country history brought their voices together with such thrilling and heart-tugging clarity as the Louvins. Whether they were singing about the pain of heartbreak or the trials of sin and redemption, their performances spoke of a plain and unaffected sincerity that's uncommonly moving. Despite the group's importance and lasting influence, When I Stop Dreaming: The Best Of The Louvin Brothers was the first genuinely comprehensive single-disc collection of the duo's most memorable work, and while it focuses strictly on their recordings for Capitol Records without referring to their earlier sides for M-G-M and Decca, only the most rabid completist is likely to mind. The 24 tracks included capture the Louvin Brothers at the very peak of their abilities, and features not only their biggest charts hits but a handful of superb album cuts; if there was ever a best-of album that lived up to its billing, this is it. Beautifully remastered and featuring a fine biographical essay by Marshall Crenshaw, When I Stop Dreaming is the best way to introduce yourself to the Louvin Brothers and their music short of the eight-disc Bear Family anthology Close Harmony; and as a sampler, it's far more affordable (and portable).
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming