When Charlie Louvin sings now, his voice carries the dry Old Testament gravity of Johnny Cash without as much bleakness.
He’s blunt, like classic George Jones, but twice as sober and without the bluesy phrasing.
There’s no use comparing the 81-year-old singer’s current country to the legacy he created in the Fifties and Sixties with his late brother, Ira. Louvin’s self-titled 2007 comeback album proved he still had the goods, but the release was marred by unfortunate pandering to the hip set with ill-advised feedback and incompatible duets.
Although Louvin had some reservations about the September release of “Steps to Heaven,” stylistically, the gospel album ” with sparse instrumentation and backup vocals from The McCrary Sisters ” is a much stronger piece of work.
“I didn’t use my band on it,” Louvin said. “But, I will have my band with me in Durant.”
Saturday’s 6 p.m. show at the Choctaw Events Center is billed as a tribute to the Louisiana Hayride. Louvin will headline the show, which features several acts, including a performance by former Sun Records recording artist and Seventies country star Narvel Felts.
Although Louvin and Felts generally work different sides of the street, their paths have crossed regularly throughout the decades, and there is clear camaraderie between them.
“We worked Branson together. We’ve traveled to Inverness, Scotland to play a show,” Felts said. “I really like Charlie Louvin. He’s done so much for country music.”
What the two have in common is that both are being rediscovered by generations unborn during the pair’s heyday.
“I’m thrilled to death to be playing to the great-great-grandchildren of the people who listened to those early Louvin Brothers records,” Louvin said.
Felts agreed. “I’ve aged 30 years, and the crowd stays the same, especially the rockabilly crowd,” he said. “They dress like the Fifties and they look like the Fifties.”
PROUD OF THE ATTENTION
Louvin is especially proud of the attention, and named popular groups like Cake and Cheap Trick and other acts he’s recently performed with.
“Soon, I’ll be on the road with Old 97’s,” he said.
Louvin’s primary tour concern is securing a bus so he doesn’t have to use his own RV.
“These pickers will ruin a mobile home,” he warned in a voice both fatal and funny.
Felts said he tailors each tour performance, focusing on rockabilly or country, depending on the crowd and his backing band. Those at Saturday’s show can expect a country calling from Felts, who’s best known for songs like “Reconsider Me” and “Lonely Teardrops.” Louvin said he is willing to adjust the length of his set to suit the suits, but won’t change much else.
“I’ll probably do two Louvin Brothers tunes,” he said. “I do what I want. There’s no smut. I do fast, slow, gospel. If they don’t like it, I can’t help it.”
The singer also mentioned a new album he’s recorded, a thematic bookend to the Louvin Brothers’ down-with-people masterpiece, “Tragic Songs of Life.” He said Saturday’s audience might hear a cut from the upcoming album “¦ if he feels like it. “Tory Troutman