Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sonic Boomers Review

It should go without saying that Hank Williams was a genius. An absolute master. What Miles Davis is to jazz. What Bob Dylan is to songwriting. What Bruce Springsteen is to live performance. Hank Williams dominated country music in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s with songwriting and live performance that eclipsed everyone in his path. His voice is a marvel. He drew out notes until they broke. He never shied from the emotion of the moment and he milked every tear he could. And he did it without trivializing the content. Whether it was his publisher/editor Fred Rose -- the Maxwell Perkins to Williams’ Thomas Wolfe -- who helped distill his essence or not, Williams issued in six short years a catalog as dense and rich as any performer we’ve come to accept for their excellence. He never recorded a concept album, but his whole goddamn life was a concept, a massive collision course with alcoholism, drug abuse, chronic back pain and wild, wild women. When he sang “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” no one could question his authority.

The Unreleased Recordings is a welcome glimpse into the world that Hank Williams professionally occupied. These 54 performances over three CDs were recorded in 1951 for Nashville’s WSM-AM morning radio program. Fortunately, Williams was spared an early wake-up call and the 7:15 performances were pre-recorded to lacquered discs that were luckily preserved back in the 1980s, since someone had the common sense to realize that these might be of historical and musical interest someday. The music business doesn’t always get it wrong, but it did take, what, over two decades to get this material into our hands. But let us not complain about the slow cogs of industry. Let us praise what has now been given over to us for our reflection.

Read the rest at Sonic Boomers

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