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


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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