MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In the 1940s, Charlie Louvin and his late brother, Ira, helped bring Appalachian folk music into the mainstream of country music. The Louvin Brothers wrote hundreds of songs, a number of which became hits, and influenced generations of musicians. On his new CD, 80-year-old Charlie Louvin performs with some of those same artists he influenced. Meredith Ochs has this review.
MEREDITH OCHS: With their blend of gospel and Appalachian music, the Louvin Brothers brought the close-harmony duo into the post-World-War-II era.
(Soundbite of song, "In The Pines")
Mr. CHARLIE LOUVIN AND IRA LOUVIN (Singers): (Singing) In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines, and you shiver when the cold wind blows…
OCHS: Charlie Louvin recorded his new CD with an all-star ensemble, including Nashville luminaries like Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare and, on this song, George Jones.
(Soundbite of song, "Must You Throw Dirt In My Face?")
Mr. GEORGE JONES (Singer): (Singing) Must you keep showing me pictures of him Boasting of his warm embrace? You've already put big old tears in my eye. Must you throw dirt to my face?
OCHS: It's not just country greats joining Charlie Louvin on his new CD but also members of indie-rock groups like Bright Eyes and Clem Snide. Louvin's broad appeal is a testament to the timelessness and genre-busting nature of his music. After all, he's been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for half a century, and at age 76, he toured with Cheap Trick.
Louvin's influence resounds not only across different styles of music but also across generations. Listen as he sings his Cold War classic with Jeff Tweedy of WILCO.
(Soundbite of song, "Great Atomic Power")
Mr. LOUVIN (Singing) Do you fear this man's invention that they call atomic power? Are we all in great confusion do we know the time or hour when a terrible explosion may rain down upon our land leaving horrible destruction, blotting out the works of man?
Mr. LOUVIN and Mr. JEFF TWEEDY (Singer): (Singing) Are you ready for that great atomic power? Will you rise and meet your savior in the end? Will you shout or will you cry when the fire is from on high? Are you ready for that great atomic power?
OCHS: Most of the songs on this Charlie Louvin CD are Louvin Brothers classics or traditionals that are well-known to country-music fans, like "The Christian Life" and "Knoxville Girl." So if the thought of buying a bunch of re-recorded tunes doesn't sound good to you, maybe this one will. It's the only new song here, a touching tribute to Charlie's brother, Ira, who died in a car wreck in 1965. It's also the CD's most beautiful performance.
(Soundbite of song, "Ira")
Mr. LOUVIN: (Singing) You were the kind of Sand Mountain, at least I thought so. You had a knack for high tenor, and I sang the low. Alabama to the Opry was the second-hardest road. The worst was me losing you and singing all alone. Ira, I still hear you…
OCHS: Charlie Louvin had said that even now, when he goes on stage, he stands a little to the side of the microphone to make room for Ira. This song, like the CD, is a reminder that we're lucky Charlie's still performing after all these years and to appreciate him while he's still here.
BLOCK: Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs. The release from Charlie Louvin, it's called, simply, "Charlie Louvin." This is NPR, National Public Radio.