Image from an advertisement for Conoco Oil Company, 1959
If you've ever seen the cover of Satan Is Real (and you have seen it if you've ever perused an online gallery of "weirdest album covers"), then you probably understand the impulse to own a copy of it. Seeing the Louvin Brothers standing in a fiery pit, dressed in white suits with their arms outstretched in pleading, while a giant, cross-eyed Lucifer looms over them, you know the album has to be interesting. And it really doesn't disappoint - the Louvin Brothers sweet country harmonies are (pardon the pun) heavenly, and their mixed set of gospel originals and traditional songs plays like a oddly-themed pop album. The album's best-known track is probably "The Christian Life" because it was covered by the Byrds, but there are plenty of equally weird and catchy songs on Satan Is Real, with titles like "Are You Afraid to Die", "There's a Higher Power", and (best of all) "Satan's Jeweled Crown".
The new reissue of Satan Is Real from Light in the Attic Records is quite nice - it comes with a detailed booklet and a bonus disc of choice Louvin Brothers tracks from their other albums. Titled Handpicked Songs 1955 - 1962, this collection was curated by a variety of musicians (plus Zooey Deschanel for some reason), and it makes a great argument for venturing further into the Louvins' discography. I'll admit that "The Great Atomic Power" makes me intensely curious about their album of "war songs", Weapon of Prayer, for instance. For now, though, I'm deeply enthralled with Satan Is Real, a decidedly odd album, but still a great potential entry point for people curious about the beautiful and fervent country-pop of the Louvin Brothers.
"Satan's Jeweled Crown" by the Louvin Brothers