In the mid-'80s, British musician and songwriter Julian Dawson had become an occasional member of Charlie Louvin's live band, and struck up a friendship with the former member of the iconic country duo the Louvin Brothers. When Dawson learned Charlie no longer had a record deal, he set out to remedy that, and in the summer of 1996 he produced an album for Louvin called The Longest Train, which featured a handful of classic Louvin Brothers tunes, some new songs (three written by Dawson), and several well-chosen covers. The Longest Train received mostly strong reviews but didn't sell especially well, and went out of print with the collapse of the Watermelon Records label. Varese Sarabande have released an expanded version of The Longest Train under the title Echoes of the Louvin Brothers, and while the title is slightly misleading (seven of the 14 tracks on this edition were never recorded by the Louvin Brothers), at the very least it makes a worthwhile album available again. Though Charlie Louvin's instrument shows signs of his age here (he was 70 when these sessions were cut), he's still an expressive and compelling vocalist despite the wear. His re-recordings of Louvin Brothers hits such as "Cash on the Barrelhead" and "When I Stop Dreaming" are keenly passionate and bring out new sides of the songs, and his cover of Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" is nothing short of inspired. The studio band Dawson assembled for the album is simpatico, and the guest vocals from Rosie Flores, Katy Moffatt, the Burns Sisters, and Jim Lauderdale give Louvin fine support while never challenging his status as star of the show. The Longest Train deserved a wider hearing than it received, and this rose smells just as sweet under the title Echoes of the Louvin Brothers.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming