The impact of the ‘Unreleased Recordings’ on the reputation, particularily the international reputation, of Hank Williams is immeasurable. I’ve posted some of the links to international reviews earlier.
These writers from around the world are finding that the wide range of songs that interested Hank Williams as he prepared and recorded the ‘Mother’s Best’ shows, and the power and control in his vocal performances has added something new to the Hank Williams legacy.
The BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, is the biggest broadcaster in Britain with several TV channels and about 10 radio stations and a multi page web service. When the BBC reviews an artist, it means something.
I think I neglected to discuss the BBC review earlier, and also forgot to list a fine review from a major music website called PopMatters.
Just for the real fans out there I thought I should quote a comment which follows the review on the BBC website.
DAVE FRON MK IN UK
A real find anything new by Hank is always a bonus but these are a gem .A great addition to any Hank fans collection and it may inspire others to become fans of the king of country musice and one of the 5 great entertainers of the 20th century .Only Elvis , Sinatra , Louis Armstrong and Ella bear comparison.
The review by Jon Lusk zeroes in on Hanks vocals:
Williams’ extraordinarily nasal, moaning drawl frequently sends shivers down the spine. He really swoops into the notes on the stark version of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and the ghostly waltz, At The First Fall Of Snow, epitomises his ability to inhabit another writer’s storytelling, as does From Jerusalem To Jericho, itself a skilful retelling of the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable. Cool Water is among the finest vocal performances, while the stark Pictures From Life’s Other Side – a late-19th century morality fable to which he adds a verse referencing the Korean war – demonstrates his flair for updating vintage material.
Over at PopMatters Jill LaBrack can’t say enough about Hanks standing in the music world:
He’s in the top echelon of artists, period. He inhabits a world that speaks to forlornness, desire, and alienation in such heartfelt manner that few can touch him for his combination of portrayal and sincerity. He puts words to feelings that seem obvious, but only because they’re plainly true: “I’m so lonesome I could cry”.
At the end of her essay, she laments, as many do, the time she allowed the incoming rush of new music to get in the way of listening to Hank:
I have sometimes gone months and months without listening to Hank Williams. There are all these new sounds to hear and so many of them are exciting. Then, I find my way back, and as soon as his voice comes through the speakers, I wonder why I have stayed away so long. I have even wondered why I listen to anything else, such is the power of this man. The Unreleased Recordings, maybe even more than purchasing that first revelatory collection, is a living, breathing body of work that keeps one foot in the daily drudgery, the other foot in the world of the unflinching artist, and both hands reaching out to a place that we can only hope will ease his pain, and maybe one day ours as well.
Of course, there is a theme emerging in this blog and from the response around the world to the ‘Unreleased’ . That more than almost any other figure in music or literature, Hank Williams took a fairly simple art form with very prescribed perimeters or boundaries and using these simple conventions took that art form to levels unimagined by his contemporaries.
I feel that many of the earlier writers and even biographers have overlooked his achievment or at least greatly underestminated it, as they spent far too much time on tales of scandalous personal conduct.
I prefer to go with what Don Helms said,and I don’t have the exact quote, but something like, the Hank Williams I read about in articles and biographies is not the person I knew.
Here is the BBC link.
And the PopMatters link