The Louvin Brothers

My Baby's Gone

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The first of two new LPs released in 1960, My Baby's Gone is the Louvin Brothers' follow-up to their 1959 country-gospel masterwork Satan Is Real. Following each religious album with a secular release had become a sort of pattern for the Louvins, and their seventh album finds them back on the dark side, delivering a dozen haunting songs of heartbreak and woe that are every bit as masterful as the fire-and-brimstone fury of their previous LP. Following a loose narrative that involves some of country music's cornerstone subjects (leaving or being left, cheating, heartache, etc.), the album is bookended by the sublime title cut and its more hopeful partner "My Baby Came Back." As with any Louvin Brothers release, the harmonies are almost transcendent, with their two high tenors dipping and diving in close range like a flock of starlings. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's centerpiece, "You're Runnin' Wild," with its thrilling arrangement and warm spring-reverb glow. Similarly, their vocal nuances on the dark, minor-key opening of "Lorene" are so completely in sync it feels almost telepathic. Working again with longtime producer Ken Nelson and a small backing band, the sound and style are in keeping with the Louvins' canon, but with a few added pop flourishes, like the snappy shuffle of "Blue from Now On" or the rock & roll guitar attack on "My Baby Came Back." The lovely waltz "I Wish It Had Been a Dream" sounds like a triple-distilled version of their style as filtered through the young Everly Brothers, a group they themselves influenced. In addition to the wonderful performances, there's a fine diversity to the record and a warmth that makes it easy to spend time with. If Satan Is Real is the height of the duo's gospel style, then My Baby's Gone is the Louvin Brothers at their country best.

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