Charlie Louvin – The Battles Rage On
The accolade of being a living legend is a weighty phrase too easily pinned to the lapels of musicians these days. But by any standard, Charlie Louvin has earned the praise as a performer and songwriter whose career in country music has spanned over 60 years and still shows no signs of stopping.
It’s easy to compare Louvin’s old style of unmistakably gospel-influenced country music to the likes of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings; however it’s infinitely more accurate to say that before Cash, Haggard, and Jennings there was Charlie Louvin – the man who had a dramatic impact on the careers of these three legends in their own right.
His newest studio record The Battles Rage On is Louvin’s heartfelt love letter to the men and women in military service – 12 songs that provide a searing look at the sacrifices of war, punctuated with the feeling of Louvin’s own experiences as a veteran of the Korean War and a palpably fierce pride in his homeland.
Charlie was born July 7, 1927 in Henager, Alabama. Along with his brother Ira, his recording career began in when they scored their first record deal as the eponymous duo, The Louvin Brothers in the early 40s. Between 1942 and 1963, Charlie and Ira had an impressive six Top 10 singles on the Billboard country chart and nine in the Top 20, including "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby," "When I Stop Dreaming," "Cash on The Barrelhead" and "Knoxville Girl." As a solo artist, Charlie has matched this success with seven top 20 singles, including two top ten hits.
As part of the Louvin Brothers, and as a solo artist, Charlie has recorded over 20 albums spanning the six decades of his career. His music has influenced nearly three generations of artists across genres far beyond his country roots his ardent fans include The Beatles, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, The Byrds, James Taylor, Lucinda Williams, The Raconteurs (Jack White) and HankWilliams III.
An album like The Battles Rage On comes around once in a lifetime. How rare it is for an artist to record songs that represent such a cross-generational scope of music. The leadoff track “Smoke on The Water” is a rendition a song which was originally written by country legends of Louvin’s early career Zeke Clements and Earl Nunn, and recorded by Red Foley in 1944. In one single track, four members of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame from two generations of classic country and southern gospel are united through their music.
Louvin shows a mutual respect for the work of the artists whom he has influenced on the record as he covers “I Wonder If They Will Ever Think Of Me” by Merle Haggard. A subtle homage to Haggard who once tipped his own hat to Louvin by lending his voice to the GRAMMY ©Award-winning 2003 tribute album Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers.
The Battles Rage On also features three re-recorded classics of The Louvin Brothers including “Mother I Thank You For The Bible”, which was covered by Canadian country legend Hank Snow in 1964 – a testament to just how far The Louvin Brothers music reached – as well as “Weapon Of Prayer” and “The Robe of White”.
Where music careers today are not necessarily built for longevity, Charlie Louvin has surpassed multiple generations as a cornerstone of country, gospel and bluegrass music. As the longest living member of The Grand Old Opry, Charlie is a four-time Grammy nominee across three decades, with his most recent nominations in 2008 (Best Traditional Folk Album) and 2009 (Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album). He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, but has never stopped to rest on his laurels.
With The Battles Rage On being released, Charlie keeps pushing forward, blending the past and present of country music together for all generations of fans to appreciate.