Some of you are going to hate me for including this (what?!? country music on IVM?!?) Others of you–maybe only a few–will recognize the importance this type of music played on the development of both rock and roll (which somewhat ironically owes a huge debt to country music), as well as to contemporary forms of Christian music, because of the strong relationship between country music and Gospel music in the middle part of the last century.
Brothers Ira and Charlie Louvin began playing and singing together in the 1940s in their home in Alabama, and later branching out to nearby Tennessee. The duo performed Gospel music that was infused with both country and bluegrass. Their songs were reflective of their Baptist faith, and often included warnings against sin, like here in “Satan’s Jeweled Crown,” where they describe their lack of popularity for following Jesus, instead of living for sin and attaining the reward of ‘satan’s jeweled crown’ in the end. Ironically, the duo’s demise came when Charlie could no longer tolerate brother Ira’s addiction to alcohol and his temper tantrums. Even more ironic then was Ira’s untimely death at the age of 41 when killed by a drunk driver in Missouri.
The track comes from their impactful album Satan is Real. The album has gone on numerous “Best of” lists both for classic country and bluegrass lists, but also for 20th century music in general. Large numbers of contemporary artists have covered tracks from the album including Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, and The Byrds. Also of note is the album art. Some argue it’s one of the cheesiest, or most bizarre album covers of all time, while others argue it’s an accurate reflection of the duo’s beliefs and the religious beliefs of the time. The only downside for me is the disconnect between the messages in the songs and the lifestyles represented by at least Ira.
Either way, the song and album are masterful works of art, and represent a unique snapshot into what it means to be “contemporary Christian music.”