The Louvin Brothers

The Church of Louvin

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The Louvin Brothers began their career as a gospel act, and while they later began performing secular music that brought them commercial success, they never strayed far from songs of sin and redemption, and after the Louvins became country stars, they frequently returned to the sacred music that was close to their hearts. Church of Louvin: The Louvin Brothers' Sacred Songs collects two of the duo's gospel albums on one CD, 1957's Nearer My God to Thee and 1958's The Family Who Prays, and both albums find Charlie and Ira in splendid form. Nearer My God to Thee is primarily devoted to classic bluegrass gospel numbers with only a few originals, while 11 on the 12 songs on The Family Who Prays were written by the Louvins, but while the originals tend to have a clearer and more specific thematic focus, in terms of performances the approach is consistent throughout, with the clarity of the brothers' close harmonies and Ira's forceful mandolin work carrying the emotional weight of the material, while producer Ken Nelson used an echo chamber to impressive effect on numbers like "Praying," "Satan and the Saint," and "If We Forget God," and he wisely kept the arrangements concise. The Louvin Brothers are arguably the finest close harmony act in the history of country music, and beyond the striking beauty of their voices and the inventiveness of their vocal interplay, their performances were full of fire and conviction, and it's difficult to imagine anyone doubting the sincerity of their spiritual beliefs after hearing this collection. This is passionate, deeply moving music that speaks to the Louvin Brothers' twin allegiances to Christ and traditional country music, and while Church of Louvin is hardly the last word on their sacred recordings, this is a fine introduction to their gospel material. (While the music and the audio on this set is excellent, Righteous Records hasn't done so well with the accompanying booklet; Dave Henderson's liner notes discuss the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? at length before going on to incorrectly state the Louvin Brothers' music was used in the film. The rest of the booklet is given over to advertising for other albums from Righteous. It's hard not to wish they put a fraction of the effort into the packaging for this release that the Louvin Brothers put into the music.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:22
2 2:45
3 2:45
4 2:34
5 2:22
6 2:58
7 2:28
8 2:38
9 2:53
10 3:12
11 2:38
12 2:28
13 2:52
14 2:22
15 2:33
16 2:19
17 2:29
18 2:37
19 2:24
20 2:34
21 2:50
22 2:20
23 2:47
24 2:38
blue highlight denotes track pick