Charlie Louvin – Valentine’s (Albany, NY)
Charlie Louvin took the stage in the spangled Nashville equivalent of David Byrne’s big suit. But if his powder blue coat dwarfed his diminutive frame, it did nothing to diminish his legend.
Young fans clad in leather and spiked hair dotted a crowd that was heavily populated with classic country fans sitting on the concrete dance floor in folding chairs borrowed from a local church. Louvin documented the event by snapping a few pictures of the audience during his opening number, “Let Her Go, God Bless Her”. When it was about time for an instrumental solo, Louvin turned to his off-the-cuff backing band and simply said, “somebody pick one.”
Louvin was in good hands. Multi-instrumentalist Bob Bates, now based in Waterford, New York, used to accompany Louvin in Nashville, and he assembled a first-rate local crew to back his old pal, including guitarist Sten Isachsen, mandolinist Nick Barr and dobro/steel player Kevin Maul.
Isachsen injected a touch of Bakersfield into the mix whenever possible. Maul was most impressive with a sweet steel solo on “Think I’ll Go Somewhere And Cry Myself To Sleep” and a lovely dobro run on “When I Stop Dreaming”. Louvin called the latter “the song that changed it all,” and spoke about Capitol’s efforts to keep the duo on the lucrative gospel track in the 1950s.
Here and there, Louvin barked out friendly commands — “Y’all just hold that E” and “Don’t do nothing ’til we go to the IV” — but for the most part he seemed pleased with the proceedings, especially when Bates took brother Ira’s harmony parts on Louvin Brothers classics such as “My Baby’s Gone” and “Cash On The Barrelhead”.
If Louvin’s voice wasn’t draped in the sparkle it once had, it was still in fine shape for a man of 76 years — not to mention a man who spent part of the last year on tour with Cheap Trick and Cake. He took one solo himself, whistling the melody to “I Don’t Love You Anymore” in the middle of the tune.
In addition to early classics, Louvin also offered “Must You Throw Dirt In My Face”, the maudlin Glen Campbell/Steve Wariner hit “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, and his show-stopping 1965 solo classic “See The Big Man Cry” in his 50-minute set.
The music continued after Louvin finished, with another edition of The Brand New Opry in the club’s downstairs room, featuring fine sets from the Del Mars, Jackinany and Albany’s hard-charging honky-tonkers the Coal Palace Kings.