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Archive for August, 2011

The contemporary country music legend who most resembles Hank Williams in spirit, genius, and style, Merle Haggard is part of the new recording which features modern stars turning unrecorded Hank Williams’ lyrics into new songs. Bob Dylan and Jack White have attracted an all-star cast to their project called ‘The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams’ which will be released this fall on October the 4th.

In addition to Haggard,  performers include  Dylan, White, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill,  Norah Jones, Rodney Crowell, Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams, Patty Loveless,  Sheryl Crow, and Hank’s granddaughter Holly Williams.

Hank Williams’s mother Lillian Stone turned over the  box of 4 notebooks of lyrics written on pieces of paper which Hank had kept in a leather briefcase to Acuff Rose Publications in 1953 shortly after his death.

Here is the track listing for ‘The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams’:

  1. You’ve Been Lonesome, Too – Alan Jackson
  2. The Love That Faded  – Bob Dylan
  3. How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?  – Norah Jones
  4. You Know That I Know – Jack White
  5. I’m So Happy I Found You  – Lucinda Williams
  6. I Hope You Shed a Million Tears – Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell
  7. You’re Through Fooling Me – Patty Loveless
  8. You’ll Never Again Be Mine – Levon Helm
  9. Blue Is My Heart – Holly Williams
  10. Oh, Mama, Come Home – Jakob Dylan
  11. Angel Mine – Sheryl Crow
  12. The Sermon on the Mount – Merle Haggard
This album will be released on Dylan’s Egyptian Records, and is the combined effort of Dylan, White, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and Columbia Records.
Because some of the lyrics are in a rough early  draft form, or not always clear, the artists have  added to them  or smoothed out some of the passages as well as creating melodies.
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Following Steve Earle’s new novel, ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’ which is a fictional story  about a fictional  doctor who treated Hank Williams in his final days, comes news of two new books on Hank.

Paul MacPhail who has written a number of books on country and rockabilly stars has a new book on Hank Williams coming out this fall. It’s called ‘Hank Williams from the Cradle to the Grave’. I’m really looking forward to this one. As I understand it, the biography will cover Hank’s life on a day to day basis. This book will do a lot to get the truth about Hank out there. As we all know, Hank’s biographers such as Colin Escott have overplayed Hank’s drinking, hopelessly underplayed the seriousness of his chronic back problem and extremely experimental and dangerous surgery. They’ve tried to show him from the Opry point of view as irresponsible and lazy. A Hank Williams day by day account should dispel some of these cruel misrepresentations.

MacPhail can be reached at: p.macphail@hotmail.com

Steve Mertz has written a novel with an interesting premise, a meeting between Hank Williams and Muddy Waters in Louisiana in 1952. It’s called, what else, ‘Hank and Muddy’ and covers some hair-raising adventures in Shreveport. Now all you Hank purists don’t get your shirts  in a knot, it’s just fiction, everybody knows it’s fiction and with Hank in the grave now for nearly 60 years, it won’t do his reputation any more  harm than those slanted biographies we’ve had to read. It keeps the name and image out there.

More on Mertz’ book HERE.

The news has been full of articles about Steve Earle’s book. I wrote a little piece earlier.

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The vitally important ‘Health and Happiness’ live radio programs recorded by Hank Williams in 1949 will be back on the market September 13th. The eight 15 minute programs will apparently be part of a new Box Set released by Time Life which produced the recent series of Mother’s Best Flour radio program recordings. This means the recording should receive the tasteful professional presentation we’ve seen with Mother’s Best.

Despite the importance of this blog to many Hank Williams fans I don’t get any advance  detailed factual information from record companies or movie makers or Hank tribute performers or museums. I picked this news about ‘Health and Happiness’ from the Great American Country news site. The articles are not clear whether the new release will contain complete shows similar to the Health and Happiness 2 CD Box Set released by PolyGram in 1993.

The September release will also include some very early Hank Williams recording from 1938 and other rarities.

But to me the rerelease of ‘Health and Happiness’ is really good news. The two CD Box Set  had been dropped from the catalogue by Hank’s current label Lost Highway records.

The title of the box set is ‘The Legend Begins’.

I consider ‘Health and Happiness’ to be equal to Mother’s Best in importance.

There are only 8 programs in this series, but they are much more slickly produced than the sloppy easy-going Mother’s Best. In addition each program contains 3 full songs rather than just 2. We do realize that part of the charm of Mother’s Best is the amount of chatter  which reveal much about Hank’s personality. But Health and Happiness gives us more singing and shows Hank off as a real pro radio personality.

I have written some earlier articles about and mentioning the Box Set of  Health and Happiness here.

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