Sunday, 9 May 2010

Hank Williams Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

Hank Williams Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings
Time Life Entertainment

Hank Williams Revealed is the follow up to last years, Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings. The format is the same, three CD’s featuring some complete 15-minute “morning shows” of hits, narratives and gospel. The shows were pre-recorded in Nashville and sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour and Feed for distribution to radio stations across the land. Hank Williams Revealed features three full Mother’s Best programs first heard nearly 60 years ago, as well as stand-alone songs, in-studio conversations and banter between Hank and the Drifting Cowboys.

The first CD is billed as The Hits… Like Never Before. The first thing that strikes you is the quality of Hank’s vocals and the band. These versions are so tight they could have been released as singles. The disc kicks off with his then current single, Cold, Cold Heart, running at over three minutes. It’s of particular interest because this is believed to be the first public appearance of the song. Highlights include Move It On Over, described by Hank as “The Doghouse Blues, the dog song”.

The upbeat manner and jokey nature of Hank belie the pain and suffering he was going through at this time in his life. We do get a glimpse of it at the beginning of the second disc when during the introduction to That Beautiful Home he says he’ll get up out of this chair to the mic if his back can stand it. This second disc, Southern Harmony, contains the spirituals and although this isn’t really my favourite genre, there are some great numbers on offer. How Can You Refuse Me Now is beautiful and Lord Build Me A Cabin also hits the spot. Something Got A Hold Of Me is a duet with Miss Audrey where she maintains her 100% record of always sounding like she’s in the middle of an argument.

The third and final disc, Luke the Drifter, is an intriguing collection of less familiar songs. Hank jokingly refers to Luke The Drifter as his half brother before reciting the clever, bittersweet, Everything’s Okay. I love the version of Jimmie Davis’ honky-tonkin’ homage to Dixie, Where The Old Red River Flows with Hank’s strange yodel which is part Lovesick Blues, part Muleskinner Blues. A drop or two of moonshine liquor must surely have passed his lips before this recording. Prime-time Hank. His revamp of Tennessee Waltz to Alabama Waltz drags a bit, but not so a rompin’ Orange Blossom Special, which sees Jerry Rivers shine. I Hang My Head and Cry is neat ballad, almost a rewrite of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

As with the first box, this is a superb release that sits nicely alongside the 10 Hank box and the Health & Happiness Shows. He was a freak of nature to be such a brilliant and consistent artist even when his personal life was in tatters. He remains the bench mark for all country singers.