Ramona Falls - ‘I Say Fever’
- Plays: 20
- Artist: The Louvin Brothers
- Album: A Tribute to the Delmore Brothers
- Track Name: Brown's Ferry Blues
The Louvin Brothers: “Brown’s Ferry Blues” (A Tribute To The Delmore Brothers, 1960)
You may have heard that Charlie Louvin, one half of the Louvin Brothers, died earlier this week. He lived a good, full life, with a career that fittingly hit another peak over the last few years. He and his brother Ira took Louvin as a stage name—their actual last name was Loudermilk, and they’re cousins of songwriter John D. Loudermilk, best known for writing “Tobacco Road.”
The Louvins were a key act in the popularization of close harmony singing in country music. Their voices were written from the same genetic code, so they had a very characteristic sound—their harmonies were close in terms of notes and the sound of their voices. The Everly Brothers certainly owe them a debt.
And of the course, the Louvins owed their own debts. “Brown’s Ferry Blues” is taken from a tribute album repaying some of that debt to the Delmore Brothers, one of the very first close harmony groups. It’s my favorite thing Charlie and Ira did together, though it’s not nearly as well-known as some of their other work, especially their gospel work on albums like Satan Is Real. Really, I think everything about this recording is wonderful, from the sound of the voices to the mix of guitar and mandolin that drives it (note that all the song’s rhythmic impetus comes from those instruments and a string bass—there’s no percussion).
Brown’s Ferry is a part of modern-day Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was the site of a small but pivotal Civil War battle that set the stage for the Union invasion of Georgia. This song has nothing to do with that history, though—it’s more of a lark. It was originally performed by the Delmores on their Freight Train Boogie.
The Louvins performed together from the 40s until 1963, when they went their separate ways as performers. Charlie was the stable one—Ira was a drinker and known for his temper. He married four times, and his third wife shot him after he attempted to strangle her. He died in a car accident in 1965.
Charlie, meanwhile, went on to have a long career and became a respected elder statesman of country music. After a long break, he got back to making albums in 2007.