The Great Atomic Power

louvinsThe song was Buddy Bain’s idea. He’d been tinkering around with it after we’d dropped the big one on Japan but couldn’t seem to put it down the way he heard it in his head. He gave it to Ira Louvin who took the title and Buddy’s notes and finished it off for him.  Ira and Charlie Louvin were raised near Sand Mountain, Alabama and their songs have that wonderful southern mixture of fear of the Lord, guilt and sin. Here they turn the fear of an atom bomb into a question of salvation. The song draws directly from scripture and truly Ira would have made a great revival preacher. Will you shout or will you cry is the central question asked. From their point of view the bomb, not only isn’t something to fear, but like Elija’s chariot, is quick way to achieve our heavenly rest. Three versus make up the song. The first one sets up the situation and connects the confusion at Babel to a revelatory second coming of sorts while reminding us the flesh is weak. Verse two gives us hope with allusions to Sabine Baring-Gould’s Onward Christian Soldier and Albert Brumley’s I’ll Fly Away. Salvation after all is the defeat of death and the jaunty melody Ira wrote for the song gives us all the clues we need to know where he stood on the matter. Verse three is more of the same, but stands out because of the 18th Century hymn-like phrasing of lines such as:

When the mushrooms of destruction

Fall in all it’s fury great

God will surely save his children

From that awful awful fate.

Put this in a sacred harp book next to Weeping Pilgrim, 417 and really who’d know the difference? Like sacred harp singing the parts are made stronger by the whole and Ira and Charlie’s harmonies soar here with conviction and trust. If you feel like romping into the Kingdom, I tell you what, there is worse ways to go.


About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Bluegrass, Country, Honky Tonk, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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