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The Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs of Life (1956)

January 28, 2014

[Album 283/1001]Tragic_Songs_of_Life_1

A while ago, my friend Travis showed me this ghastly version of the terrific REM song Losing My Religion.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard after being reworked into a major key!  If you’re looking for an endurance test, try making it through the entire song.  I have yet to get even remotely close.

So when track six of this one rolled around, I didn’t immediately recognize In The Pines.  I’m used to hearing Kurt Cobain scream, “I shivered the whole night through,” to wrap up the MTV Unplugged in New York show.

By comparison, the mandolin intro on this version sounds positively gleeful:

The good news here is that I’ve been able to successfully listen to this major-scale based version several times.

I do quite like the contrast between the joyful music and the lyrics full of sorrow.  Many of my favourite songs definitely follow this grim subject matter/beautiful melody format and I firmly believe that contrast makes for the most interesting pieces of music.  I also approve of the ‘less is more’ school of thought, it’s a vocal/guitar/mandolin show throughout.

The eleven other Tragic Songs of Life feel like slight variations of similar harmonies & themes.

If you like their take on In The Pines (and I do, as a subdued change of pace), the rest of the record should fit the bill.

However, if In The Pines as heard above sounds like another one of those wretched major key reworkings, be prepared for more of the same!

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From → 1950s

6 Comments
  1. History lessons always come with a price, as in all roots are not the same. Nice post

  2. In The Pines is a great traditional song, and seems to be awesome whoever does it. Have you heard Link Wray’s versions? If you can pick up a copy of his Wray’s Three Track Shack album there are some cool versions on there.

    • I haven’t heard those – but of the three I’ve heard (Nirvana, Lead Belly, Louvin Brothers) it’s impressive how different they sound. Thanks for the suggestions!

  3. Did you notice that in the YouTube comments for the REM in major key horror show a number of people comment that it reminds them of The Smiths? What?!?

    • Oh dear – if Major Key REM sounds like the Smiths, perhaps I’ve been wrong about liking Morrissey all these years!

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