The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
May 2, 2022
The Louvin Brothers are a duo that's passed my radar all my life. I haven't listened to much country, let alone country before the 80s, so I really had no idea what I was expecting. That being said, I've very quickly fell in love with close harmony the duo brings and the little embellishments the mandolin brings to the track. Overall, the backing track is always a pleasure to listen to.

The reason why this album blew me away however is in the stories they portray. Starting with the first three tracks, probably the most tame tracks of the album and appropriately put in the front, while the subjects of each song seem cheerful and happy at a surface level, going a bit deeper you'll find darker undertones. In Kentucky, the singer wants to be buried on top of Kentucky Mountains to reunite with his parents and wife one more time. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight portrays an ex trying to be happy for a past partner's wedding, even when she knows that he wants to keep his distance. Let Her Go, while vague, seems to portray the death of a close friend and singer remembering all the good times they've had. It's legit dark and tragic as the title of the album says, and while the backing instrumental is kinda cheery and I'd understand why some people wouldn't get as into it as I do, but there's a strange, almost gothic value that makes the whole song more somber, probably the harmonies.

From there we get deeper into the swamp of tradegy with What Is Home Without Love, a story where a couple is regretting marrying eachother for reasons outside of love; the wife married him because he's rich, and the husband married her because she's beautiful. The story climaxes with the husband breaking down from the image of a poor family hugging and kissing and loving each other. It really pulls the heart strings. A Tiny Broken Heart depicts the sudden separation of a young couple, with the boy, a seven year old, pleading to his father to save the farm, offering his toys and all the money they've saved up.

In the Pines is a bit more of a breather track, a simple retrospective but still somber break up track. I still like it, it just doesn't stand out nearly as much Alabama is an even more black sheep, as it's simply a track dedicated to Alabama. While it's nice, it doesn't fit the overall theme of the album. Maybe it was more of a breather track, so I'm not gonna complain, but the nitpick still stands.

But then Katie Dear comes along. Katie Dear is the song that made me pay attention to the album. It portrays the story of a couple trying to get the parent's wishes for a marriage, and when they don't, they both end up taking their lives, side by side. While what I said sums up the entire song, the way the lyrics slowly pace what's happening is masterful. This is cefinitely a top 100 song in my opinion, and the shining star of the album.

My Brother's Will is the story of a brother who tries to keep a promise made by his decaesed brother on his will to marry his wife and never make her sad. Plot twist, it turns out that Sally was cheating on him the entire time, and with that, he woefully rips up his brothers will defeated. Again, the way the brothers describe the situation is cinema-worthy, and I loved this one.

Knoxville Girl depicts the singer as a murderer. Yes, a murderer, stalking and beating the life out of an innocent child, begging for her life until she was in a puddle of blood. I told you it was gonna be intense. Take the News to Mother depicts the thoughts of a soldier in war, most likely the Second World War knowing the date of this album, thinking about how he'll never come back and hug his mother again. While it's a tearjerker, there's just something weird about the duo humming in unison to depict kissing, it's really strange. The album closes with Mary of the Wild Moor, an album depicting a woman sacrificing her own life for her child in the middle of a storm that ended up destroying their cottage. Jesus.

Overall, Jesus this album was great. I appreciated them easing me in with the swamp instead of pushing me off a 50 foot diving board right into it. I know that there's a time and a place for that type of stuff, but I'm guessing that taht wasn't what they were trying to do. I would wholefully recommend this to anyone trying to find a hidden vintage gem. Give this one a spin.

BEST TRACKS: What Is Home Without Love, Katie Dear, Knoxville Girl

This is album 3 of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

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