A country giant returns — to music and to Memphis. 

The Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin records of the past decade may have come with a bit of an aftertaste — heightening a Man in Black mythos that appealed to hipster converts while obscuring Cash's tremendous musical/conceptual range — but say this for Rubin: He knew to otherwise stay out of the way of greatness.

Most producers faced with an aging legend on the comeback trail prove incapable of such restraint, choosing instead to clutter their project with too many backing players and name collaborators. It probably makes for a memorable experience for those invited to participate, but this gambit tends to damage the project.

Such it is with Charlie Louvin, in which producer Mark Nevers pairs with the legendary Louvin on a record in which all but one track feature a "featuring." The damage here is minimal by the standards of the celebrity-duet record, but it still feels a bit too busy, especially since Louvin's voice, though certainly weathered, still sounds strong enough and interesting enough to carry the record on its own. No recording of the great "The Christian Life" needs 10 people, including musicians and vocalists.

Louvin is the remaining half (alongside late brother Ira) of the Louvin Brothers, the country harmony duet team among the most important record makers of the 1940s and pre-rock '50s. The Louvins, who spent some time in Memphis, disbanded in 1963 (Ira passed away in '65), and Charlie recorded regularly as a solo artist through the early '70s and sporadically since then.

This is his first solo album in 15 years, and the song selection mixes classic Louvin copyrights ("Great Atomic Power," "The Christian Life") with other early genre classics (the Carter Family's "The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea," Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train," etc.). The "guests" range from country followers such as George Jones and Tom T. Hall to rock-god fans such as Elvis Costello to indie/alt oddities such as Lambchop's Kurt Wagner and Superchunk's Mac McCaughan. (I'm sure Louvin is a huge "Slack Motherfucker" fan.)

Despite a title that focuses all attention on Louvin himself, Charlie Louvin comes off more like an attempt at an alt-country Will the Circle Be Unbroken but without quite the force of personality to pull it off. — Chris Herrington

Grade: B

Charlie Louvin returns to Memphis for an appearance at Shangri-La Records on Friday, April 20th, at 6 p.m. For more on Louvin at Shangri-La, see Local Beat, page 29.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Beyond the Arc

James and Lakers Blow Out Grizzlies, 111-88

Tiger Blue

Tigers 94, UAB 76

Music Blog

RIP Ace: Diving Deep Into the Ace Cannon Style

Fly On The Wall Blog

Hugh Freeze Talks About His Junk

Fly On The Wall Blog

Stop, Look, Listen: Friedberg Germany Gives the King a Go

Fly On The Wall Blog

Will The Commercial Appeal Face More Newsroom Layoffs?

Politics Beat Blog

Another George H.W. Bush Memory

Hungry Memphis

Gary Williams' Legacy

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation