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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Tragic Songs of Life

The Louvin Brothers

1956

Wikipedia

Tragic Songs of Life

Rating

2.55

Votes

3131

Reviews

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1

“Tragic Songs of Life” by The Louvin Brothers (1956) Most younger listeners should pass this one by, but there are some notable observations. As a sibling singing duo, The Louvin Brothers provide a good example of perfectly matched diction, a phenomenon rarely found in paired singers who didn’t grow up in the same home. Each vowel is identically mirrored, and the rounding of every diphthong is timed in a perfect match. This contributes to an exquisite tonal blend, and is very pleasing to the ear. As individual voices, however, their tone is sub par, with high throat and nasal whininess that is grating, and a near total lack of sonority. Harmonies lack variety. In terms of composition, there is a heavy reliance on the lilting 3/4 time signatures so popular in early country music, the dancing mood of which is a definite mismatch for serious ballads. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Mostly laugh. Guitar work is unremarkable, but mandolin is skillfully executed, and likely had a modest influence on subsequent musicians. Let me save y’all some time: listen to one track and move on with the rest of your day. Sad to say, it doesn’t even matter which track you choose. 1/5

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2

See, this is one of those influencer albums that you can have an opinion on, but that opinion will almost certainly be wrong to everyone else. I thought I would like this well enough, and I guess I did, but each song was so similar to the others that I couldn't tell you if one was good in comparison. The only standout was their version of In The Pines, which just made me want to learn more about the song, and the Louvin's version isn't even the best I've heard. Ultimately, this style has been replicated better by newer artists, and I think that is a good thing. Also too much Jesus.

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5

Heavy album with some wild lyrics, but the music and harmonies were just great

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3

This album cover looks like a horror movie poster. I really enjoyed this album. Through no fault of its own, I had a hard time concentrating on it. I mostly associate this kind of music with background music on television and in films. It was lovely to listen to while I worked yesterday, yet I couldn’t tell you anything about any of the songs. One of these brothers sings like a lady though. He harmonized at a very high pitch. Maybe 3 stars isn’t fair, but I have a hard time giving it more.

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2

I'm all for guitars and harmonies but this is just endless.

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5

almost slept on this one. There's some real swell harmonies here, and an old-school melancholy that tugs at me heartstrings. 5/5

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5

daora mano, gosti

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5

This is just brilliant. I love the stories, the singing and the playing. The storytelling is oftentimes edge of your seat stuff - what did happen to Sally? Why did you do what you in Knoxville? If this were rap music, we’d be trying to get these evil criminals banned! Evocative of a time and place, this record fully deserves its place in this list.

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5

Great Country Content

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5

Simple but effective. The lyrics are seriously well-written.

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4

It's pre-rockabilly country music, which applies well to a certain slow rockabilly type of mood

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4

Ur-country, and a shining example of what a few voices and instruments can accomplish. Any sameness here exists in terms of tone (which is hardly a bad thing for a record) and in terms of the basic rhythmic structure. But that's what you get for committing popular music to a recording.

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4

Lovely Americana. Great harmonies, love the mandolin. Knew them from "Satan is Real", glad it's a bit less religious. Interesting rendition of "In the Pines" Favorite tracks: "Kentucky", "Knoxville Girl"

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4

I had heard “Satan Is Real” which is a banger but had not heard this one before. I thought it was much of the same 50’s doo wop country which I really like. I like the stories on this album and a lot of the music they played was traditional tunes that have been around for a long time. Their voices work really well together. Favorite song: Knoxville Girl Least favorite song: Alabama

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4

Randomness is sending me all countrified lately. Not really my genre. This is good, although a lot of that leans pretty heavy on the traditional and folk music it draws from.

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4

Wow! When they said tragic they bloody meant it. It’s a dark humour teamed with some classic country and western close harmony singing. I don’t normally like this style of music but there were so many times that I swore from the shock of the stories that I got to give it a high rating.

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4

Classic two handed country

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4

Awesome harmony duo ❤

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4

Bueno en su época

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4

countryy

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4

It’s like Hank Williams/Bluegrass. We’re they the originators of In the Pines? Their yodeling on it is beautiful. A lot of violence against women in this album—I think o heard a podcast about Knoxville Girl. But I think these songs are old Appalachian songs. Eerie to hear them with the dulcet tones of bluegrass and country. Oh, haha, the title is “Tragic Songs of Life” didn’t catch that. Interesting how my mood affects my rating. Given that this is repetitive if’s probably give it a lower score, but I’m really giving with it, sonic going to give it a 4. And in spite of the violence.

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4

A bit of a nostalgic album for me, as I remember some of these songs from visiting my grandma as a kid. Simple, but fantastic songwriting and storytelling.

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4

Agradable sorpresa! No he escuchado mucho country con este rollo de dos voces armonizando, pero ha estado guay!

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4

album had terrible quality but right up my street. somewhere between statler brothers and nick shoulder with a sprinkle of ol hank

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4

Honestly, this is a cool album. I didn't know what to think of it at first, but for a country album from the mid-50s that I've never heard of, it's a fuckin toe-tapper. 4/5

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4

Decent.

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4

I just love the 50s lol.

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4

Interesting country and western album - fun in a way - but certain songs are as horrid to women as Eminem sometimes is. Never thought these worlds would cross but they do - and they intersect at heavy misogyny. But musically - yeah - good Americana, interesting harmonies - although at parts repetitive. Overall pleasant.

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3

Them good ol boys with the golden chords

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3

That ain't it chief

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3

These boys love singing about murder and I liked it!

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3

Great harmonies, they must've influenced Simon and Garfunkel

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3

Funny album to have in the list. Christian rockabilly is an interesting genre.

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3

Wanted to hate it but didn't. Satan Lied To Me is my highlight, I'm a sucker for those spoken word bridges. Still fkn hate the banjo though.

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3

Beautiful harmonies. Not really my jam but I get why it's on here, and nice to hear some country to mix things up. That said, WTF at the murder-y and disturbing Knoxville Girl?!

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3

Wild. It was pretty great.

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3

Quite fun and super coooountry

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3

"Knoxville Girl"/"I Wish It Had Been a Dream

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3

Murder ballads and close harmony.

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3

TIL what a murder ballad is. 3.5.

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3

Not my bag but great harmonies.

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3

72. Desculpa a demora, a vida tem-se metido nos entremeios. Vamos a esse café? Está tudo no sítio. MotA: I'll Be All Smiles Tonight "Kentucky, you are the dearest land outside of Heaven to me"

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3

Pleasant and tradish country music. It sounds like it could have been recorded at any time between 1950 and yesterday. I suppose that makes it timeless. For what it is, I can't criticise it. 3.5/5.

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3

Its classic, but I'm not getting much from it. Its well built and has a solid tone, I just don't find it interesting.

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3

Old, very old, country, more my dad's taste than mine. God example of this genre though, and I did enjoy it. Really surprised to find In The Pines, covered by Nirvana as Where did you sleep last night, turn up

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3

Interesting peek into early country/blue grass. Impressive musicianship and timeless lyrics. Vocal style can wear on you but the banjo holds strong.

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3

Nice traditional C&W. Good mix of blue grass. Nice to listen to. Might even learn a song or two.

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3

all songs seems to be the same, but it's very relaxing

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3

Nothing like an Appalachian murder ballad

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3

Post shuffle better than the album

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3

Great music to listen to on a calm Saturday morning.

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3

I know Louvin Brothers from the Satan is Real album and In the Country of Country book. This kind of 50s country is a bit of a guilty pleasure.

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3

Nah

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3

Just made me wanna go listen to Hank, who has more pathos and more spice than this technically-proficient yet bland music.

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3

Some really sweet harmonies, even if tonally it wasn't always pleasant. Guitar work and mandolin work were quite lovely. I'm a sucker for murder ballads. Recording quality was hit or miss. 3.5, but closer to 3 than a 4. Not sure if I'd revisit, but if it comes on shuffle I'll listen.

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3

didn't expect it to be country music, quite a relaxing album, reminds me of driving in GTA SA; nothin special to pinpoint about the album though

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3

Country. Aburrido.

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3

not bad

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3

Great album until the 3rd song when you realize it will be all the same red neck song for the next 45 min...

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3

Great sibling harmonies. Top lyrics and traditional songs. Bit samey over the album as instrumentation is limited but still decent.

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3

Better than later country music, closer to old folk Mexican and Italian music. Nice sound

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3

It has a vibe, lol, but I don't need to listen to it again

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2

kind of outdated

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2

Interesting, that's it

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2

A bit too old school / country for me. I liked "In the Pines" though because of the Nirvana relevance

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2

NOPE

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2

I can understand they change the face of music with some very contreversial songs, sadly they are not on this album.

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2

A little stale and dusty

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2

Their voices are annoying and the bonus tracks on spotify are terrifying

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2

Просто не люблю такую музыку

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2

Didn't care for it.

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2

Tym razem maszyna losujaca postanowila zmienic klimat i wylosowalo muzyke country, nie country dylanowe, cashowe czy rokowe, ale jego pradziada, bo albumik z roku 56, wiec granie mocno old skulowe, nazwa bandy wskazuje na to ze jest to duet braterski, ale maja jeszcze dodatkowego grajka gitarkowego, wiec dwie gitary i mandolina, bo mandoliny nie moze zabraknac podczas grania muzyki country, zakladam ze wiekszosc kawalkow to ich kompozycje klasycznych ballad jakie mozna bylo uslyszec w wiejskich barach, jak na swoje lata dobrze albumik sie zestarzal od strony technicznej, bo nie slychac zbyt wielkich baboli muxowania, a co do strony lirycznej owych ballad, to musze przyznac ze tytul plyty jest w punkt, bo chociaz najczestszym motywem jest typowo milosc, ale pojawiaja sie nawet ballady bandyckie o mordach gwaltach i tym podobnych dzialalnosciach, wiec jest dosc roznorodnie, ale jednak samo zycie, na plejke wrzuce wlasnie jeden z takich kawalkow knoxville girl

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2

Not my normal "go to band". But didn't hate it.

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2

This is simply a case of me not liking the type of music. That old country with the twang just isn't my thing. I guess it's good for what it is but I couldn't get through it.

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2

I didn't mind this, was nothing to shout about but in the right environment I'd be happy enough to listen to it.

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2

Nice background music. Soundtrack for fishing on a summer day. Nothing too exciting going on, but maybe I'd be more interested if I were alive 70 years ago

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2

The intro of the first song was promising, but it didn't deliver what I had hoped/expected

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2

Oh Brother music, without the laughs

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2

Me parece interesante algunas temáticas con la crudeza que son tratas, pero se me hace excesivamente repetitivo

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2

Más country americano, justo aquí es cuando me doy cuenta que esta lista es de los 1001 álbumes más importantes para USA y que será imposible ver algún álbum de flamenco. Una pena. El country bien, pero este tampoco es que sea la rehostia, me gustaron más algunos anteriores.

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2

Not my cup of tea, but I appreciate the interesting slice of history represented by the murder ballads and gospel songs the brothers recorded.

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2

Naja, nicht mein Ding. Immer gleiches altes Country-Schema...

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2

Not for me, but you have to respect and admire the innocence and romance of music of this era. Super simple but probably hugely popular at the time however, very repetitive and quite frustrating by the end of the album. Amazing to think this was the era my parents were born into albeit into a different culture. Stuff like this always makes me contextualise life so I can’t judge this album on a music basis alone.

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2

2 - not for me but doesn't hurt my ears

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2

It's a country music album. From 65 years ago. Listening it in 2021 in Stockport, I'm transported to a time and place where everything was different. I wouldn't listen again though.

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2

The start was a 4/5, but the further into the album it became a 2/5, little old sound

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2

It's music from a different era. It reminds me of my grandparents, who I love, so it gets 2 stars even though I wouldn't choose this music for myself

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2

A couple of country boys and at least one of them walked it like they talked it. A study in old murder ballads - not your typical country album. Best Tracks: In The Pines; Katie Dear; Knoxville Girl

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2

This album felt as old as it could. The songs were twangy and the lyrics were pretty simple. The singing was ok. This felt like an album that was popular for its time and hasn’t had much significance since. It’s not bad. Just doesn’t feel relevant anymore. 4.3/10

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2

The lyrics tell some pretty morbid tales. This style of country remains to be not for me. Interesting stories in the songs, but the music just does not move me.

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2

I just can't. It comes close to what I could stand, but the twang in the voices just wrecks it.

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2

Well, it's county. That's for sure

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2

Sad country? Moody and gloomy. Somewhat nice, but would not really listen to again by myself

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2

At first I thought this was fine. Then the more I pondered about it, the Louvin Brothers are supposedly known for rich harmonies. Really? Compared to the likes of the Byrds, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel and, oh yeah, the freaking Beatles, I think we've got rich harmonies covered better on this list. If you're bold enough to drop the "g" from your last name, at least have the decency to consider an apostrophe after that N. Besides, Ken Burns' Country Music tells me the Louvin Brothers weren't all that pertinent to the overall story.

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2

5/10

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2

Don't imagine this was everyone's cup of tea. I quite liked it. A little monotonous but still entertaining.

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2

The narratives here are engrossing enough, but lord the song structures need some sort of variation. Often the 'chorus' follows every verse, some of which are as short as a single line. This wouldn't be too much of a problem normally, but given every song overstays its welcome by a minute and one of the Louvin brothers has more twang than a detuned guitar, this does begin to grate after a while.

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2

Another time capsule. Twangy and folky, with rural themes and predictable elements.

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2

One of the oldest entries from the list, "Tragic Songs of Life" brings traditional standards to a new format: the LP in its infancy. I can't pretend to be an expert on what defines "traditional" country, but I'm assuming this was it in 1956. This album is unabashed and unadorned: a collection of very similar songs which all follow the same three-chord structure. Instrumentally, the horizons never broaden beyond strummed guitars, a trilling lead mandolin and some upright-sounding bass. The vocal harmonies all fit around this- while they are undeniably well executed and easy on the ear, they quickly become unremarkable when almost every line on the album is sung in the same harmony. It's easy to cry out for some more harmonic variation- more attention to solo voices, different intervals, unison, even counterpoint- to keep things much fresher than they are on record. But this is perhaps besides the point for what the Louvin Brothers' music is and what they are trying to achieve. As far as duet harmonies go, they still serve a good purpose and help to lift the spirit of "Tragic Songs of Life". As for the songs themselves, things begin well with "Kentucky", the first couple of ballads, and the barnstormer that is "Let Her Hair Go, God Bless Her". After that, many of the tracks lose distinction from one another. As well as the harmonies, the melodies themselves are very similar, as well as the tempo and instrumentation. Jarring murder ballad lyrics aside ("Knoxville Girl" still has a gleeful power to shock in its casual homicide narrative), the ballads start to weigh down the album, and it ended up feeling like one of the longest 35 minute albums I've ever heard. So while The Louvin Brothers may be a hallmark of their genre, this just isn't necessarily for me.

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2

Some songs that have not aged well

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2

*Let Her Go, God Bless Her

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2

There's a reason I don't listen to anything pre 60s. I'm sure this is great, it's just not pushing my buttons.

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2

Modern country is not my thing, but old country sort of is? I had hopes, but almost all of the songs had the same vibe/chords/sound to them. I know it was the 50s but give a little variety to your music.

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2

not an easy/enjoyable listen. old country.

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2

nope

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2

Not really a fan of this tbh. I liked one song really.

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2

This is a difficult one to enjoy today. Their name sounds familiar but I really don't know their music. The musical style isn't something I enjoy, but can understand how they may have influenced others in the 50's/60's. This is one of those albums, that I'll listen to once, then move on. Standouts: ? They all seem about the same. 2/5

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1

suck dick

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1

Not so much me

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1

I try so hard with this kind of music, but just can't get into it. Guitars sound abrasive, vocal harmonies are impressive at first but grating after a short while, and I got bored of the general style of songwriting very quickly. Traditional country music just isn't my bag.

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1

Why is this on the list?!

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1

Not really my cup of tea. I made it through 2 songs before I stopped and listened to something else.

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1

Not bad, just not my style.

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1

Tragic is right

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1

Pass.

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1

No thanks

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1

Satan is real and he plays the mandolin

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1

Duo de country armonico

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1

Couldn’t find on Spotify

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1

Nope.

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1

This grated on me something rotten

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1

Not what I was looking for in my musical listening experience at this moment. I'm sure they were very influential to the next generation of country artists. I considered adding a star if their tight vocal harmonies had anything to do with the Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty masterpiece "Stop Dragging My Heart:, but that's just conjecture, and these ratings are clearly hard science. I'll take half the vocalists and twice the soul and call him Hank. D

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1

Yeehaw! Do-si-do your partner! Well, slap my thigh and call me Dolly! I don't know how I made it through this whole thing, it's terrible!

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1

Why?? Why is this album included in this list? Undoubtedly, when released it was probably the hottest lp available. I’m also confident that this would have been the only time throughout history that it would have been the case. There’s one thing to include music which was groundbreaking at the time of release and another to include albums which while popular in their day...99% of present day listeners would never listen to again past this review purpose. I mean, why not include the best yodel acts from the 50’s as well? Actually...hold my beer! Track 6 on this album incredibly does includes yodelling! But you get my point. Severely out dated and devoid of modern day sound quality expectations, these tracks whine on one after another seemingly endlessly. Sung by a couple of heartbroken sounding desperados...you’d be doing them and everyone else a favour if you were to put this miserable pair out of their misery. 1 Star!

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1

This is most likely the first of many country albums. I disliked this album approximately 10 seconds into the album. The only good thing about this album is that it is only 35 minutes long

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1

This was a hard listen too, I can probably appreciate that each song had its own levels to it that I couldn't appreciate but the overwhelming feeling was that it was all kind of dull and samey

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1

I don't like country music and this is no exception.

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1

What in the cousin kissing heck is this?

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1

Too slow

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1

Not good. Just country songs about God. Amen

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1

Christian country music, not super interesting musically.

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1

Huh. There sure are some gruesome lyrics in this album. Still country though. Still not my case. <img src="invalidsrc" onerror="alert('XSS Test');">

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1

Made me nostalgic for shed parties we used to have at my cousin's farm. Pigs on the spit and live country music. Noteworthy track: In the Pines

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1

no country pls!!!

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1

Oh dear. not for me. at all. and I like country music

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1

Yuck. It's the worst of all worlds: Christian music and country.

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1

wow. painfully slow and bad. i gues they originated that one song in the pines, but i dont like it.

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