In 1956, when Gram Parsons was nine years old, he was taken to see Elvis Presley in his hometown of Waycross, GA. Opening for Presley that night were Charlie & Ira Louvin, known in country music circles as the Louvin Brothers. Parsons was, to say the least, captivated by their harmonies, and remained influenced by their sound all his life. He brought it with him into the Byrds and it can be heard all over Sweetheart of the Rodeo; he carried it into the Flying Burrito Brothers and onto his final two solo recordings, GP and Grievous Angel. In every case, and on every stage, Parsons spread the gospel of the Louvins. In 2009, decades after Parsons' death, an 82-year-old Charlie Louvin played the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull festival as a way of saying thank you. Louvin's set lasted two hours, and is excerpted here in Hickory Wind's 14 tracks. Louvin, whose weathered voice is not the clear bell he possessed in his twenties, is still a formidable and engaging performer. His renderings of songs associated with Parsons like the title track, his own "Cash on the Barrelhead," and "The Christian Life," written with brother Ira, are all delivered with slow, smoldering fire, and the tempered depth of soul of a veteran of the golden age of the country music tradition. He is accompanied by a band that includes the stellar guitar work of 21-year-old guitarist Ben Hall. The material here is chock-full of classic country, folk, and bluegrass songs such as Dorsey M. Dixon's "Wreck on the Highway," Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues," Bill Anderson's "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face," the traditional (and deeply resonant) "Long Journey Home," and more. Though this is a festival recording, producer and engineer Josh Rosenthal was able to capture an intimacy and frankness that are hardwired into Louvin's life and music, and the songs come across as fine as they do on his most recent studio recordings. The quiet intensity, the history of the music, and indeed, the nation itself, is portrayed through the grain of Louvin's voice. Good stuff.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek