“Mama taught me to boogie,” Hank Williams Jr., sang at John McCain’s private election party in Phoenix, Ariz., last Tuesday. He stumbled awkwardly around a stage that was far too big for him, with a guitar that was far too out of tune and a beard that desperately needed a trim. If Williams wanted to learn how to boogie, he should have been listening to the records of his father, Hank Williams Sr.
It is because of performers like Hank Williams Jr. that country music has become a cliché — overweight Southern Republicans singing about whiskey, shooting their women and loving their mamas. Funny that the progenitor of country music, Hank Williams Sr., never once gave into one of these clichés. “The Unreleased Recordings,” a new three-disc box set collection of his “Mother’s Best Flour” radio appearances sponsored from 1951, offer the best glimpse of his genius and contemporary country’s relative unimportance.
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