Tragic Songs of Life – The Louvin Brothers (1956)

Album no. 3/1001

It’s country music in all it’s whiny, guitar-picking beauty.

The wonderful folk of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die labelled this album “one of country’s essential bedrock releases.” That really says everything you need to know about Tragic Songs of Life.

Supposedly Ira Louvin, of this The Louvin Brothers, was a bit of a mad cunt; he loved his women, loved his drink, loved combining the two and having a bit of a smack-about. Not that you can really tell that from this album.

Have you listened to this album before?

CL: Nope. Full disclosure – I try to avoid country music at all costs. It’s a shame I couldn’t avoid it for longer in this list.

NK: I haven’t. I don’t have the same overwhelming dislike for country, but I’ve never really gone back this far.

Standout track

CL: ‘Let Her Go, God Bless Her’ – This one is very jaunty but really, I’ve just chosen my least hated song.

NK: I’m impressed you were able to pick one out. I found they did blend into each other after a while. I’m going with ‘Kentucky’ because that’s where bourbon is from. You should have given that a crack to try and get through the album.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

CL: When you literally have nothing else to listen to.

NK: When you can’t decide if you’re happy or sad. The lyrics are pretty much bleak as hell across the board, but the harmonies and jaunty guitar picking make it really unclear how you’re supposed to feel. It’s quite fun!

Why has this album been included on the list?

CL: Look. If you’re into two blokes singing country songs with some standard harmonies and playing some pretty ho-hum rhythms, them this is your jam. But if country music ain’t your thing, don’t you feel bad about giving this one a miss.

NK: NOT SURE. I liked some of the bleak songs, but it was pretty similar all the way though. I don’t know enough about country music to really gauge how influential this might have been.

Will you be listening again?  

CL: Nope. Enough squawking for me. It just kept going – I think I zoned out.

NK: Maaaaaaaaaaybe. I like how bleak it is, I like the history that comes along with ‘traditional’ songs, but their singing gets to me after a while. I feel like you can jump straight to the late great Townes Van Zandt without missing too much here.


CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

NK:Untitled designUntitled design

Out of context youtube comment

03 - Tragic songs of life

Listen to Tragic Songs of Life on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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