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Music Review: Hank Williams – Hank Williams Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

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Once upon a time there was no such thing as cable, satellites, or the Internet – not even dial up let alone DSL. In those days televisions and radio stations relied on individuals owning antennas on their houses that would reach up into the sky and pick off signals as they'd pass by. Thirty years ago I still used to be able to lay in bed on cold clear night in Toronto Ontario and pick up radio stations in Chicago and Detroit that managed to punch through the crisp air with blues and R&B we never heard up north.

Now a days you can't turn a radio dial without hitting noise of some sort at every point on either the FM or the AM band. Yet, at one time there used to be such a thing as dead air on the radio – when all there would be is silence. In rural communities in the states, especially in the south, a housewife's day would be well underway before the first programming of the day started up. At around 7:00 am every morning with the husband headed out the door to start work on the back forty or tending the livestock in the barns and the kids off to school, she'd be over the sink up to her elbows in soap suds when the voice of Cousin Louis Buck would come over the radio. That was the signal for the start of fifteen minutes of Hank Williams on Nashville's WSM radio station – home station of the Grand Ole Oprey – brought to her by Mother's Best flour and feed.

In 1951 when Hank Williams wasn't on the road, and had a spare moment or two, he'd be in a studio in Nashville pre-recording fifteen minute morning shows that would be broadcast Monday to Friday across the South. Seventy-two of these tapes have managed to survive over the years and Time Life is now ready to release its second set of recordings culled from these shows. Hank Williams Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings will go on sale as a three disc set on Tuesday November 3, '09, while individual discs from the set are being released as independent recordings at selected retailers in the United States.

The three discs each represent a different facet of Hank's character and his music. Disc one are his hits; "Cold, Cold Heart", "Move It On Over", "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", and many more old favourites. Disc two is called "Southern Harmony", but it could just as easily been called Old Time Gospel, as it's an entire side of old gospel tunes, with some having roots as old as 17th century England. The final disc is a collection of homilies and stories that Hank recorded under the name of Luke The Drifter. Either spoken word or recited verses, to our ears they might come across as being corny and hackneyed, but they were aimed at his unsophisticated and very religious audience of farmers and their wives who would have appreciated the story's simple axioms.

Each of the discs not only contains a collection of material taken from various broadcasts, but includes as an added bonus a complete Mother's Best broadcast built around the disc's theme. Regardless of whether or not he's doing a gospel show, telling tales, or singing some of his hits, each of Hank's shows start off with him and the boys doing the opening of "Lovesick Blues" from which he segues into introducing the show, its sponsor, and its host, Cousin Louis Buck. There's only enough time for a couple of tunes as well as fitting in the necessary mentions of Mother's Best Flour And Feed in the fifteen minutes allotted for each show, but Hank and the Drifting Cowboys deliver the goods each time. It might sound funny to us selling house wives flour for baking and feed for their livestock all at once, but the majority of the show's audiences are going to be a farmer's wife who not only has to feed her family, but think about the care of the livestock as well.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://hank.shows.it/ Tom

    Comment from ATL Web Admin:

    Although the review seems to be OK, I can never bring myself to agree with the following:

    “Although I can’t agree with their comments about the beauty of the gospel tunes, some of them with their talk of Christ’s bleeding wounds while on the cross, “How Can You Refuse Him Now”, made my blood run a bit cold.”

    “MGM, forced him to use to record collections of his spoken word pieces. While they’re not quite as bad as the gospel tunes when it comes to their subject matter, to our ears they’re not exactly heartening or inspiring.”

    The author is obviously neglecting to fully appreciate the TIME & PLACE of the recordings
    in question. He also fails to recognize the depth
    of Hank’s spirituality. He most probably would also
    consider Roy Acuff’s emotional Gospel tunes, to be
    songs that would ‘make his blood run cold’.

    Unfortunately, he is looking at those beautiful and inspiring Gospel tunes, through the restricted lenses of a cynical and materialistic modern, self-admitted iconoclast.

    Similarly, his comments about the Luke the Drifter material, reveals his obvious inability to appreciate music in it’s proper context of time and place.

  • bokhara

    This author is a complete twit. Hank’s gospel tunes are among his greatest works and are some of the most beautiful works of American music ever recorded (just listen to “The Prodigal Son” from last year’s “Unreleased”). And his Luke the Drifter songs rank right up there as well (“Be Careful of the Stones …”). Nor does he have a sense of the importance of Christianity as the major theme of American roots music – linking that theme to today’s conservative religious right is a pathetic stretch. I was surprised to see this musical ignoramus was a Canadian. Figured his for a Brit with his post-modern secular humanist leanings.

  • Terri Timmons

    I completely agree with the previous two posters. I am a young huge Hank fan and so is my husband. I love Hank so much it hurts. I find Hank’s gospel and Luke the Drifter songs the most beautiful and awe-inspiring songs I have ever heard (i.e, When God Dips His Love in My Heart, I’ll Have a New Body, I’ll Have a New Life, Beyond the Sunset, Help Me Understand, etc.) Luke the Drifter songs are not corny. They reflect the real human condition – something that is lost in our commercialized, materialistic world where everybody tries to act sooooo cool and sooooo hard. In my opinion, only a true Hank fan should be allowed to review his music because anyone but a true Hank fan just does not get it.
    This reviewer reminds me of Colin Escott. I just finished reading his biography of Hank and was very disappointed to see him insult a number of Hank’s songs. It made my husband and I seriously wonder why he was even writing a book on Hank to begin with.

    I will definitely be purchasing Hank Williams Revealed.

  • Steve Hancock

    I agree with the above comments regarding the general excellence of the Luke the Drifter material. I’ve never heard or read anywhere that he was “forced” to do the recitations, and given the fact that Hank wrote and presented many of those songs to Fred Rose-who preferred his regular material-it’s seems quite unlikely. I was unused to the song form before I heard them, but I like them. I ran across the “Revealed” set in the store today and having loved the first set, I bought this one immediately. After a first listening, am not sure but what I think this is even better, which is difficult considering the greatness of the first set. The most remarkable thing about Hank Williams was his consistency. No musical artist, save perhaps the Beatles, ever recorded so much material with such a high standard. These unreleased sets are the virtual equivalent of discovering a cache of previously unreleased Beatles albums. Excellent all around!

  • http://hank.shows.it/ tom

    Steve Hancock wrote: “I’ve never heard or read anywhere that he was “forced” to do the recitations”

    From what I have read, Fred Rose suggested that Hank record the recitations
    under the name of “Luke The Drifter”, so that they would not become confused
    with his ‘Jukebox friendly’ recordings. Hank naturally agreed with his mentor.