© 2022 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The 'Great Atomic Power' of Charlie Louvin

Charlie Louvin, 79, attempts a comeback with the help of special guests like George Jones, Elvis Costello and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.
Charlie Louvin, 79, attempts a comeback with the help of special guests like George Jones, Elvis Costello and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

Formerly half of the iconic country duo The Louvin Brothers — brother Ira died in a car accident in 1965 — Charlie Louvin, 79, is the latest in a line of country war horses who've seen their careers resurrected by well-meaning hipsters. A combined comeback album and early-country primer, Charlie Louvin remakes Louvin Brothers classics and period-specific country covers with the help of everyone from George Jones to Superchunk's Mac McCaughan.

Louvin's tracks aren't updated so much as re-recorded, and the disc's scratchy, nostalgic feel occasionally works against it, but "Great Atomic Power" is a beauty. Revisiting The Louvin Brothers' gospel-influenced, early-'50s classic, it neatly conjures up the twin menaces of Atomic Age angst and eternal damnation: "Are you ready / for the great atomic power? / Will you rise and meet your savior in the air?"

Powered by a nimble banjo and backing vocals by Jeff Tweedy — whose old band Uncle Tupelo once did a faithful, less cheery version of its own — the track's mixture of paranoia, old-time religion and jauntiness still packs a curious wallop. It may suggest that hell awaits the listener, but it sure is perky in doing so.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allison L. Stewart
Allison Stewart is a writer living in New York. It's entirely possible to see her work in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, No Depression, Rolling Stone or any number of other places. Or to miss it entirely, which is just as likely.