The Louvin Brothers: My Baby's Gone 1955-64 (Raven/EMI)

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The Louvin Brothers: My Baby's Gone 1955-64 (Raven/EMI)

About 15 years ago (at least) I saw a short-lived Auckland band The Dribbling Darts of Love which was fronted by Matthew Bannister, formerly of Sneaky Feelings. I'd always liked Matthew's music and this outfit -- with his wife Alice on cello -- were excellent.

He played one song that I asked him about afterwards and he said it was by the Louvin Brothers. I didn't think I'd heard of them, but much later remembered that Gram Parsons had been a huge fan of this country duo and had recorded their songs The Christian Life (with the Byrds) and Cash on the Barrelhead (on a solo album).

The Louvins -- who influenced the Everly Brothers -- are also known for their hilarious album cover Satan Is Real in which they pose in front of an enormous fire, with a red cardboard cut-out devil with horns and pitchfork behind them. It turns up in books about bad album covers.

The Louvins -- Ira and Charlie -- were from Alabama and sang in church, then did radio in Memphis and across the South. By the mid 50s they started recording secular material, were a favourite of the young Elvis (Ira told Presley he was singing trash), started scoring hits, and walked the line between country gospel and secular country pop.

They remained popular until Ira's death in a car accident in 65 and their songs still appeal to those with an ear for alt.country and the music made popular by Oh Brother! Where Art Thou?

This 30-track disc with good biographical liner notes (and which reproduces the Satan Is Real cover for your amusement) is about all the Louvin Brothers you might need. But they were unique, a fact not lost on the many discerning artists from Ray Charles to Emmylou Harris (who had a hit with the Louvins' If I Could Only Win Your Love) and Lucinda Williams.

And the Dribbling Darts of Love who covered their spare and often emotionally gripping songs.

They also do a mean murder ballad.

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