Charlie Louvin, 1927-2011

It’s been a busy January out here in Denver, and I’m sorry to return with some sad news. Charlie Louvin died this morning in Tennessee. He was 83.

I grew up around bluegrass and country gospel music, but the Louvin Brothers were an act I sought out for myself in the last few years as I started tracing artists that influenced various members of Wilco. I found Satan Is Real at my local record store and it’s stayed in pretty steady rotation around my place ever since. Charlie Louvin and his brother Ira did everything I love about that style of music — fluent use of form, fatalistic lyrics, tight harmony, and an unmeasurable feeling of distinct, otherworldly weirdness — with grace and panache.

Louvin’s work is vital to my understanding of other artists I love, and like the figure of the devil on the cover of Satan Is Real, he was a giant in his field, with a legacy and impact on American popular music that will live on for years. Condolences to his family and friends.