CD REVIEW: Thoughts & Prayers by Idiot Grins

Oakland-based Americana/Country/R&B group Idiot Grins have announced the release of their 4th full-length album and boldest creative choice yet. Their new album “Thoughts & Prayers” is a song-for-song covers release of the Louvin Brothers’ revered 1959 classic “Satan Is Real”.

Yes, you read that last part right. The Idiot Grins are all about taking chances and this new album is about as daring as it gets. We felt compelled to share this gem of an album because of the message they are sending and we agree with it 

Straight from the band themselves, allow them to tell you exactly what is behind this album.

Idiot Grins’ Randy Strauss explains: “This all started back in 2017 when the band went to Nashville to master our last album, State of Health. At the Country Music Hall of Fame gift shop, I bought a brand new vinyl copy of Satan is Real by the Louvin Brothers, one of my favorite albums. This is a 1959 classic that has some of the most beautifcul country gospel ever recorded, together with one of the most interesting homemade album covers ever. As State of Health was released and generated two digital radio hits, we were looking around for ideas for our next project. I suggested that while we wrote new songs, we dash off a cover album of Satan is Real, just for fun. It took just about three years from that germ of an idea until the completed album due to a variety of unexpected twists and turns.”

Randy continues: “When I acquired Gram Parson’s guitar several years ago, it came with a note from Emmylou Harris that said whoever bought the guitar should play some George Jones songs on it. That always resonated with me. Using that guitar on every song on this album was my personal tribute to Gram Parsons, who loved the Louvin Brothers and covered Angels Rejoiced from Satan is Real with Emmylou Harris.

During these hyper-polarized times, it is pretty clear to me that I would not have very much in common with the Louvin Brothers of the 1940’s or 1950’s, or much of their audience. Despite this, there is something about the sincerity and earthiness of their music that cuts past all of that and reaches into my soul. I don’t believe we should ignore the painful lessons of our history while we strive for a more hopeful future. I think music is part of that history.

I have to admit that my band mates were not always sure what I was trying to do with this project. This is pretty foreign territory for us. I love them like brothers for taking it on without too much dissent and helping us see it through. Mostly, I just wanted to see if we could. The Louvin Brothers were the greatest country harmony group ever, and we can’t touch them. But it was a hell of a lot of fun trying.”

“May I add that I can’t say enough about the great work Evan Eustis and John Hansen did singing these songs. They were given what I consider to be an impossible assignment – sing the Louvin Brothers. We didn’t even bother to find out what keys to play the songs in to suit their ranges.  We just learned them off the record and played them in the original keys.  But Evan and John worked their asses off to learn the parts and arrange them among themselves so that they found the parts that worked for them on each song. Ira and Charlie Louvin had the good fortune of being brothers, and like the Everlys and the Wilsons, the family character comes through in a supernatural way. Ira and Charlie also divided up the parts in a different way. Ira always sang the tenor harmony, but often sang the lead as well. When the harmony comes in, he climbs up too sing it while Charlie steps in as the lead voice. Evan and John worked all that out while being anything but brothers in the sense of having blood harmony. They know what I mean!”

On Thoughts & Prayers, Idiot Grins strip down to the basics of guitar, bass, piano and drums, together with good old fashioned “blood harmony” on such classic songs as “Satan is Real”, “The Christian Life” and “The Angels Rejoiced.” The Louvin Brothers never abandoned their gospel origins, and their spiritual convictions are never far from the surface. 

With all the things going on in 2021 that is the victim of 2020, we need truth and we need people that are daring enough to tell us the hard truth. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and get right – there is so much evil in the world that is trying to bring us down.

Listen to the Idiot Grins’ new album, “Thoughts & Prayers” by using the link below.

by Javier Zepeda

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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