Wednesday, November 22, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 3

The Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs of Life

I'm pretty sure this is the first country album to show up on these pages.

Like most country music the compositions on this album are quite sparse, and the focus is on the vocal harmonising of the brothers as they sing sorrowfully about unrequited love, untimely deaths and southern American states.

The first couple of songs are twang-mungus paeans to Alabama and Kentucky and their distillation of everything cringeworthy about country music provides a challenge to getting into the album, but once past them it's generally a pretty agreeable listen. 'Agreeable' as in 'good to listen to' not as in 'happy fun times'. These guys sure have a heavy morbid streak, well over half the tracks are grim murder ballads or not much milder tales of broken hearts. The 'tragic' part of the title is well earned, and their maudlin style is a good fit for Nick Cave who covered 'Knoxville Girl' on his b-sides album.

Country music is not the best fit for my temperament, but when the mood strikes this album goes down pretty well. What I wrote about Elvis definitely applies here as well, in that these guys sing like they mean it, and that makes their sad stories (mostly autobiographical I believe) resonate even so many years later.

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