Charlie Louvin – Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA – (Tompkins Square Records)Album Reviews, Artists, Charlie Louvin, Features, Music, News — By Jim Simpson on July 11, 2010 4:19 pm
This review comes on the heels of some unfortunate news, as Charlie Louvin was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At 83 years of age, Mr. Louvin is expected to make a full recovery after surgery on the 22nd of this month, two days after the release of this album. When we spoke with him recently from his home in Tennessee he was incredibly upbeat.
“I could ask why me, but then again why not me? I have high hopes that we’ll beat this — I believe that and I truly think that’s half of it: if you are defeated in spirit, it’s possible you will be defeated totally, so you’ve got to keep a stiff upper lip and hang in there. That’s all I can tell you.”
His faith and positive attitude (and the wonderful surgeons in Nashville) will see him through. “I’ve been very fortunate for most of my life [healthwise],” said Charlie, “so I would classify myself lucky and maybe even blessed.”
Yes, Mr. Louvin, you are indeed blessed. So, everyone please say a prayer for him and go buy Hickory Wind.
Charlie Louvin is a living legend. He’s been a star for much longer than anyone else in the recording business. He’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, he’s influenced everyone from Gram Parsons to Those Darlins (their song “Wild One” is a nod to the Louvin Brothers) and he’s still out there making the music he loves.
This is particularly apparent on his latest release, a live recording, Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA (Sept. 19, 2009) featuring Louvin Brothers classics as well as Charlie’s solo material, and his first-ever performance of Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind.”
The album opens with the chugging gospel tune “Long Journey Home” at the end of which Charlie shouts, “Yo! Welcome to the shooowwwww!” The gleeful energy in his voice is infectious. He sounds like a man completely in his element. We should be envious of anyone fortunate enough to have been there in person that night.
“There’s a young man whose name is hangin’ on this festival,” says Charlie in the intro to the title song. “He recorded some Louvin brothers songs and we owe him a lot. He introduced our music to rock ‘n’ roll people.” With very little time to practice the song, Charlie apologizes about the possibility of screw-ups. His apology is unwarranted, however, as his version is simply gorgeous.
Many of the highlights of Hickory Wind are Charlie’s intros and backgrounds on some of the songs, especially his story about Jim Reeves and the Louvin Brothers song “If You Love Me, Stay Away”, a song Jim wanted to record but never got around to doing before his tragic death.
Charlie tries to keep the mood light by deciding not to sing “Darling Cory” because he doesn’t want to “kill anybody else right now” with sad songs. He then goes on about the evils of alcohol (something his late brother Ira knew something about) as a prelude to “Wreck On The Highway” and then eases into “The Christian Life,” a song famously covered on The Byrds’ classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
Even at 83, Charlie’s voice is surprisingly versatile, with soft and subtle control on the slower numbers like “I Still Miss Someone,” “Think I’ll Go Somewhere And Cry Myself To Sleep,” and “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” while gritty and powerful on Merle Haggard’s “Working Man’s Blues,” and Charlie’s own hit “Cash On The Barrelhead.” Also included is Charlie’s 1964 top-five hit “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” a song with one of the best lines in country music: “I don’t love you anymore/Trouble is, I don’t love you any less.”
Above all else, this album will likely go down as a classic and historic document of an iconic artist of the high lonesome, bluegrass, and country western styles, an artist with a shining spirit.
It’s fitting, too, that Charlie Louvin returned to Waycross, GA to pay tribute to Gram Parsons, who at the age of nine first heard the Louvin Brothers open for Elvis Presley back in 1956.
All of us at Awaiting The Flood wish Charlie Louvin all the best, and look forward to his next album and to seeing him in concert once again.