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Charlie Louvin

Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs – 2008 (Tompkins Square)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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CDs by Charlie Louvin

Charlie Louvin is an old pro, and the latter term is no less true than the former. More than four decades after his brother and singing partner, Ira, met his maker on a highway in Missouri, Louvin is still churning out albums, many of them with a gospel theme. He handles the material here quite capably, but the theme might have been better suited to Ira.

Louvin's arrangements are downright buoyant and, partly for that reason, the album lacks the visceral impact its title portends. How much there was to be mined from chestnuts like Darling Corey, Wreck of the Old 97 and Dark As a Dungeon, is debatable, but Louvin, apparently, was not the man to attempt it. When Johnny Cash delivered the most chilling line in American popular music, "I killed a man just to watch him die," he showed that an artist need not be a sociopath to channel one. Louvin, who parted ways with Ira when his brother's drinking got in the way of their singing career, delivers these songs like a man whose focus is music, not murder, mayhem and destruction or the demons that sometimes bring them about.