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Album Review: Satan Is Real/Handpicked Songs 1955-1962 by The Louvin Brothers
Fantastic, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 100 Based on rating 10/10
Satan Is Real is the Louvin Brothers' best known album, largely because of its bold title and its eccentric cover artwork, in which Charlie and Ira Louvin, surrounded by flames symbolizing Hades, pose in front of a huge, cross-eyed model of the Devil. While more than a few hipsters have found an ironic laugh in the album's over-the-top imagery, one listen to the music confirms that the Louvin Brothers weren't joking in any way, shape or form. Satan Is Real is an album of fierce, plain spoken sincerity in which the Louvins, who started their career singing gospel material, perform songs that deal with the high stakes of sin and redemption, in which Satan truly does have power to rival the Lord.
It has been said countless times before that the Beatles’ harmonies were influenced by the Everly Brothers, who in turn molded their voices from that of the Louvin Brothers. If that is the probable case, then a good portion of the history of popular music can be traced back to the rural red clay of south Alabama where brothers Ira and Charlie Louvin were born and raised amongst a family of five other siblings and their God-fearing, soil-tilling parents. Older brother Ira’s heavenly high tenor and Charlie’s perfectly accompanying lower register were honed and perfected after hours and hours of daily practice to the point where, Charlie admitted, they could “phrase together without lookin’ at each other, without steppin’ on each other’s toes, or winking at each other.
Even if you've never heard a single note from the Louvin Brothers, odds are good that you've at least seen the cover of their 1959 album, Satan Is Real. The discrepancy between that emphatic title and that plywood demon landed it on countless lists of worst or weirdest album covers, usually alongside Paddy Roberts' Songs for Gay Dogs and Orleans' Waking and Dreaming. Charlie and Ira Louvin devised the concept for the artwork themselves and set everything up in an old quarry, cutting Satan from Charlie's son's miniature train table and filling old tires with kerosene to simulate Hell.