November 16: The Louvin Brothers released Satan is Real in 1959

satan-is-real

The Louvin Brothers – Satan is Real

What is it about this album?
Why is it so important in the americana /country/gospel music canon?

Satan Is Real is a gospel album by American country music duo The Louvin Brothers.

Released November 16, 1959
Recorded August 8–10, 1958
Genre Country, Gospel
Length 31:54
Label Capitol
Producer Ken Nelson, John Johnson (Reissue)

The gospel/country duo Charlie and Ira Louvin was born and grew up in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama, they lived on a cotton farm south of the Appalachian Mountains, that’s where they developed their distinct harmony style in the deep Sacred Harp tradition of the Baptist church.

Ira Louvin died in a car wreck in 1965. Charlie Louvin died two years ago at 83 just a few months after publishing his story about The Louvin brothers.

In The recently published book, Satan is Real, the ballad of the Louvin Brothers, Charlie talks about their singing style.This is not a straight quote, but it goes something  like this:

…people who saw the Louvin Brothers perform were mystified by the experience. Ira was a full head taller than me, he played the mandolin like Bill Monroe and sang in an impossibly high, tense, quivering tenor. I(Charlie) strummed a guitar, grinned like a vaudevillian and handled the bottom register. But every so often, in the middle of a song, some hidden signal flashed and we switched places — with Ira swooping down from the heights, and me angling upward — and even the most careful listeners would lose track of which man was carrying the lead. This was more than close-harmony singing; each instance was an act of transubstantiation.

I could not find any live footage from Satan is real, but this clip of them singing, I don’t belive you’ve met my baby is a fine showcase for their intricate singing style:

“It baffled a lot of people,” Charlie Louvin explains in his fantastic memoir. “We could change in the middle of a word. Part of the reason we could do that was that we’d learned to have a good ear for other people’s voices when we sang Sacred Harp. But the other part is that we were brothers.”

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January 19: Dolly Parton was born in 1946 – Happy Birthday!

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
― DollyParton

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
― Dolly Parton

“I tried every diet in the book. I tried some that weren’t in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.”
― Dolly Parton

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March 25: Aretha Franklin was born in 1942

If a song’s about something I’ve experienced or that could’ve happened to me it’s good. But if it’s alien to me, I couldn’t lend anything to it. Because that’s what soul is all about.
~Aretha Franklin

I Say A Little Prayer – “The Cliff Richard Show” 1970:

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Great song: John The Revelator

The Best Songs: John The Revelator

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
– Revelation 1:1-3

John the Revelator is a traditional gospel blues call and response song.  Music critic Thomas Ward describes it as “one of the most powerful songs in all of pre-war acoustic music … [which] has been hugely influential to blues performers”. Blind Willie Johnson recorded John the Revelator in 1929 (or 1930) and is the first known recording (at least to me) and subsequently a variety of artists have recorded their renditions of the song, often with variations in the verses and music.

The song’s title refers to John of Patmos (or traditionally John the Apostle) in his role as the author of the Book of Revelation. A portion of that book focuses on the opening of seven seals and the resulting apocalyptic events. In its various versions, the song quotes several passages from the Bible in the tradition of American spirituals.

This is a dark and brooding masterpiece!

The Blind Willie Johnson version:

Blind Willie Johnson recorded the song on April 20, 1929 (or 1930) in Atlanta (his second (1929) or his fifth and final recording session for Columbia Records (1930)). He is accompanied by his first wife (probably), Willie B. Harris. Johnson was a gospel blues singer and guitarist. While the lyrics of his songs were usually religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. It is characterized by his slide guitar accompaniment and tenor voice, and his frequent use of a lower-register ‘growl’ or false bass voice.

Blind Willie Johnson – John The Revelator:

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Jan 18: The late David Ruffin was born in 1941

His voice was so powerful — like a foghorn on the Queen Mary… It jumped out of the speakers and ravished my soul..
~Rod Stewart

One of the greatest lead singers the Motown stable ever had
~John Lowe (allmusic.com)

One of the greatest “Motown voices”.. and thus one of the greatest voices in recorded american music history.

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