The Family Who Prays

The Louvin Brothers

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The Family Who Prays Review

by Mark Deming

It's not unusual for successful country acts to make occasional appearances on the gospel charts, but the Louvin Brothers were one of the few that sounded as if sacred music was their first choice and their country sides, good as they were, were more of a career move. 1958's The Family Who Prays was the duo's second full album of gospel material after signing to Capitol Records, and it featured 11 original songs as well as a cover of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." The Louvin Brothers were not afraid to be forthright in their gospel songs, and The Family Who Prays is full of lyrics that call for a return to old-fashioned values, drawing a spiritual line in the sand on "If We Forget God," "Preach the Gospel," and "Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self," and if the message is a bit less pointed on "Born Again," "Satan Lied to Me," and "Just Rehearsing," the emotional force of the performances is potent throughout. Charlie & Ira Louvin were one of the greatest close harmony acts in the history of country music, and as usual, they sound excellent on The Family Who Prays, blending their voices with a skill that's thrilling regardless of your religious beliefs, and the melodies are well-crafted, the accompaniment is simple and sublime, and Ira Louvin's mandolin gives the instrumentation a feel nearly as unique as the vocals. The Family Who Prays is excellent hardshell gospel music from one of the last and greatest of country's great sibling harmony duos; this captures the Louvin Brothers near the peak of their abilities, performing with a heart and soul that bring an almost electric force to their songs.

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