The Unreleased Recordings
(Time Life ****)
To call this a major historical find is an understatement. Fifty-seven years after they were recorded, and nearly three after his estate was ruled the rightful owner, these astonishing Hank Williams recordings are hitting the market in their original form for the first time.
Williams and his Drifting Cowboys cut this music in 1951 for their morning radio show on Nashville's WSM. Usually they performed live, but they had to prerecord shows that could air while they were on the road.
Remarkably clear and with no overdubs, these tracks offer a complete picture of Williams as he ranges from stark, despairing ballads to uplifting gospel rave-ups, using his own hits, numbers by others, and - most interesting - songs he never formally recorded. He offers spoken introductions in several places, and vigorous harmonies by his band members add to the energy level and live, spontaneous feel. In at least one instance Williams adds different lyrics to one of his older hits, 1949's "Mind Your Own Business," providing another hint of his turbulent home life: "If I get my head beat black and blue / That's my wife and my stove wood, too."
- Nick Cristiano