Did you ever imagine when you started out that you would still be on the road in 2009?
I didn't think about it then. I think about it a lot now. Now that I'm 81 years old. As long as I can sing on key, I'm gonna stay in the business. And if I get to where I sing flat, or sharp, and can't correct it, then I'll find something else to pass the time with.
Back in 2003, the Louvin Brothers tribute album (Livin' Lovin' Losin', Universal South Records) came out. How did it feel to listen to all these musicians paying tribute to you and your brother?
I'm not smart enough to be able to tell you what it made me feel. I don't think there's any words that would do that. But Carl Jackson did a superb job. The way he produced it, there's not a mistake in the album. I'm really picky about the music, and if there's a mistake in a song it will jump out at me. And there are no mistakes in the tribute album. I just think it was absolutely wonderful, myself.
I knew nothing about it until there was one song left to do. I had just recorded a song for the Disney record people. So the man who was responsible for recording it wanted everybody to come in and listen because he had mixed it and he wanted to know if everybody was happy with the way it sounded.
So I went and [gospel singer] Sonya Isaac did a song on that. So she came in and I was just exchanging pleasantries, and asking her what she was doing and this and that and she said "My love for Dolly Parton finally paid off today." And I said "What do you mean, 'paid off?'" Well, she said. "I sang tenor with Dolly on one of them gospel songs on that tribute to the Louvin Brothers." And she could tell right away that I had heard nothing about this tribute album. So she'd spilled the beans, and she said. "When whoever was supposed to tell you about this tells you, you better act surprised."
Someway Carl Jackson found out that I knew the album was in progress, so he called me and said "We got one more song to cut. It's James Taylor and Alison Krauss on 'How's the World Treating You.' We're going to cut it this coming Sunday. Would you like to come?" And naturally I would, and I did. I took a few pictures, and I found out that James Taylor, regardless of where he lives and how famous he is, is a real down-to-earth, great guy. I enjoyed meeting him, and I've known Alison a long time, and they did a superb job on that song.
Did you feel like it was a new start for you? You've been very busy. Four albums in the past two years.
Well, I've got a new manager out of New York, as you probably know. And his idea was to get me in front of younger audiences. John McCrea, he's the head man for Cake. And he emailed me asking if I wanted to be on their tour. And within two minutes I had emailed him back saying not only would I like to do a few shows, I'd like to do the entire tour. And I did. So that got me in front of a lot of people who had never heard of me, or even of the Louvin Brothers. We went on another tour with Lucinda Williams, which was with a lot of young people. And then with The Old '97s.
I still have some old folks in the audience who remember the Louvin Brothers, but I have the great-great grandchildren of the people Ira and I sang to that come to our shows. A lot of young people. And to me, that means I might be able to hang on a while.
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