CHARLIE LOUVIN "Charlie Louvin" Tompkins Square

Charlie Louvin, a country music legend.
Charlie Louvin, a country music legend. (By Alan Messer)
Friday, August 17, 2007

CHARLIE LOUVIN"Charlie Louvin"Tompkins Square

LIKE B.B. KING, Tony Bennett and Ray Price, country music legend Charlie Louvin is one of those great American octogenarians who still deserves to be recording and touring. So Louvin's new self-titled CD is welcome, even though there are times when this all-star session has more commercial cachet than natural chemistry going for it.

The surviving half of the Louvin Brothers, esteemed for their close harmonies and country-gospel repertoire, gets the "last roundup" treatment here, surrounded by country vets (George Jones, Tom T. Jones, Marty Stuart), British disciples (Elvis Costello) and alt-rockers (Jeff Tweedy). Trouble is, some of Louvin's special guests don't have anything particularly special to contribute. Costello, who always seems to pop up at these tributes, has a routine cameo on the Louvin Brothers ballad "When I Stop Dreaming," and Jones is in fading form when it comes time to revisit Jimmie Rodgers's "Waiting for a Train."

Fortunately, Louvin's unvarnished voice and unwavering soulfulness offer plenty of compensation during sparsely arranged performances of Bill Anderson's "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face," the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me," A.P. Carter's "Grave on the Green Hillside" and the traditional tale of murder "Knoxville Girl." Yet none proves more affecting than "Ira," Louvin's elegiac remembrance of his late brother. One of several tracks that features Stuart on mandolin, the ballad finds Charlie reflecting on Ira's legacy with both love and lingering sorrow: "You had a way with writing music from the heart / Your voice is strong / Even though you're gone / 'Cause I still hear your part."

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Tuesday at Jammin' Java.

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