MUSIC REVIEW: Charlie Louvin

Charlie Louvin Tompkins Square
Music •••• Sound ••••
At nearly 80 years old, Charlie Louvin isn't about to learn any new tricks. And thankfully, producer Mark Nevers doesn't try to foist any on him. Louvin's self-titled set - his first new studio album in more than 10 years - is a traditional country record with no gratuitous nods to modern arrangements, except for a few sound effects added to "Great Atomic Power." NashVegas was not invited. But special guests do abound, from legends themselves (George Jones, Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare Sr.) to alt-rock kids (Alex McManus of Bright Eyes, Eef Barzalay of Clem Snide) to alt-country practitioners (Tift Merritt, Jeff Tweedy, Paul Burch).

Banjo, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, acoustic guitar, and supportive harmonies are brought forth. The ensemble sound is natural throughout, kept to a small-room ambience and held to a background rumble. And Louvin's beautifully weathered voice is showcased without fanfare.

"Ira," Charlie's tribute to his late brother (who died in a 1965 car crash), is spare and touching. Other highlights are many: "When I Stop Dreaming" with Elvis Costello, "Knoxville Girl" with Will Oldham, "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face" and Jimmie Rodgers's "Waiting for a Train," both with George Jones. It's like getting a letter from an old friend who's doing quite well.

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