Monday, December 22, 2008

Arkansas Democrat Gazette Review

Publication:Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Date:Dec 16, 2008; Section:Style; Page Number:29


Best new thing in country could be old (cowboy) hat


What is arguably the best recording in country music released this year is 57 years old. Another contender is two new albums by an 81-year-old who was half of one of the most admired brother acts in country music history. The artists: Hank Williams and Charlie Louvin. Williams, whose short career — just six years — defined country music, injecting it with an emotional passion, an everyman sensibility, songs with spare and heartfelt lyrics and a psychic turbulence that moved from the heart to the barroom to the church. The writer of classics such as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You),” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and others is so revered as a songwriter that Williams the singer has nearly been lost. No longer. The 54 songs on The Unreleased Recordings (three CDs, Time/Life, $39.98) reveal Williams to be a singer of rare interpretive gifts, who so thoroughly inhabits a song that whether he wrote it or not is almost irrelevant. His compelling performances make it clear, whether he wrote ’em or not, he owns them at that particular moment.

    These treasures are from a 15-minute radio show Williams performed in 1951 with his band, The Drifting Cowboys. The transcriptions contain 143 songs and were thought lost, acquiring an aura of a sort of musical holy grail. But what was lost was found, and after several years of legal negotiations, we have this astounding boxed set, which is rich and historic, yet wonderfully alive and vital.

    As with Bob Wills’ wondrous Tiffany Transcriptions (which are to be reissued in a 10-CD boxed set Jan. 27 by Collectors’ Choice), these are casual recordings that reveal a charming playfulness in Williams’ personality and a captivating, spontaneous

    In this relaxed setting, Williams’ phrasing is edgier, more personal than his studio work. Unreleased offers the most revealing look at Williams the singer since the Country Music Foundation began issuing Williams’ demos in 1990 — Just Me and My Guitar and The First Recordings, which were combined on CD as Rare Demos: First to Last in 2000.

    Unreleased shows Williams’ sense of humor, displayed in his introduction of “Hey, Good Lookin’” during which he slips in the sponsor’s name (Mother’s Best Flour) into the lyric and adds “Well, I ain’t good lookin’, but I’m gonna start cookin’,” and does just that as he and the band break into the song.

    Another enjoyable segment is his talk with the band members about learning “On Top of Old Smoky” from his grandmother, and he and the band perform a slower, compelling take of the song popularized by Burl Ives in 1949 and The Weavers in 1951.

    While Williams plays a number of his own songs, most of the tunes are by other writers. There’s Fred Rose’s “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain,” a careerdefining hit for Willie Nelson; the exquisite “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” written by Scotty Wiseman and a huge hit for cowboy singers Tex Ritter and Gene Autry; and gospel classics such as Thomas A. Dorsey’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” plus “Dust on the Bible” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

    But the best track? It just may be his cover of the Sons of the Pioneers’ hit “Cool Water,” a Bob Nolan song that has been sung around many a campfire, but rarely with the depth Williams brings to it. His desolate voice embodies the song’s loneliness and amplifies its spiritual/ psychological metaphors.

    Williams and the Drifting Cowboys are wonderfully spontaneous here; the story goes that band members often played songs that hadn’t been rehearsed, and usually with no set list. But if the band is caught off-guard by Williams (Bob Wills used to “call” the Texas Playboys’ sets on the fly), the players show a striking confidence in their skills.

    Thanks to The Unreleased Recordings, country fans should hopefully discover, or rediscover Williams as a singer of rare interpretive gifts. This boxed set brings new depth and perspective to our understanding of Hank Williams the artist, and the human being. Review

Perhaps the greatest classic
country discovery to date

Hank Williams - The Unreleased Recordings
(Time Life)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 16, 2008
Hank Williams

Review by Andy Argyrakis

So many posthumous projects are released by unauthorized outlets as bootlegs or with such poor sound quality they're not even worth purchasing. Not only does Hank Williams' brand new box set The Unreleased Recordings (Time Life) come with full approval from his estate, but it boasts fifty-four tracks in fairly high quality sound that was especially impressive for the retro time frame. The performances come from various 1951WSM radio shows, including several alternative versions of ultra famous hits, plus songs that have never seen the light of day until now.

In the former category, "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Cold, Cold Heart" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" sound stellar with a little extra southern fried passion brewing during these broadcasts. And as would be expected, Williams' unmistakable voice is always overflowing with a charming drawl that's rubbed off on nearly every one the style's current stars to some degree. But perhaps even more intriguing to die-hard fans are tunes being heard for the very first time since originally airing, including "Cool Water," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "Cherokee Boogie." Though many troubadour's b-sides are generally best left on the shelf, Williams' charming signing and emotive lyrical interpretations are just as superb on these obscure selections as they are during more commercial material.

Beyond the musical content packed within the project, there's also a handsome book loaded with extensive biographical notes and stories behind each song. There are also countless photos from the family's personal achieve, helping pinpoint the historical nature of this set all the more effectively. In fact, the collection as a whole is such a prize for die-hard fans that it genuinely lives up to its advertising slogan of the "greatest discovery ever" when it comes to classic country music.

Friday, December 12, 2008


New from Time Life -
   Hank Williams:  The Unreleased Recordings

      Imagine that it's 7:15 a.m. in January 1951.  People are cooking biscuits, milking cows, driving to work or doing whatever they did on a daily basis, and they're treated to a fifteen minute radio show starring Hank Williams.  He sang songs he never recorded.  He sang his own hits and other people's hits.  He talked about his favorite songs, where he had been, and where he was going.  Whatever came into his head.  It was kind of like having him join you at your breakfast table for a good visit and a little pickin' and singin'. 
        If you weren't tuned in to WSM radio between 7:15 and 7:30 back then you would never have heard these recordings, and if you were you finally have a chance to hear them again.  They're guaranteed to take you right back to that simpler time.
        As the story goes WSM radio was purging  its library of unusable material which included 72 shows featuring Hank Williams.  It was decided that the only owner of these shows was the estate of Hank Williams: Hank's children Hank Jr. and Jett Williams.  They, with the help of  Time Life have released them to the public unaltered, undubbed and beautifully restored.  The compilation comes beautifully packaged with a forty page book telling the whole story and a little about the history of  each of the 53 tracks.  Along with the interesting stories the book offers a pictoral history which helps tell the story of the legend of country music's first superstar.  This a must for any collector and would make a perfect gift for the holiday season.  Don't forget to pick one up for yourself as well. 

Hank #2 Rolling Stone Reissue

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hank Blog Critics Review

"The Unreleased Recordings is a bit of a godsend. Like reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries or seeing the metamorphosis of Jackson Pollock through exhibit, this collection serves to help complete the picture of a human being we can never know too much about. The songs come from radio station WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1951, Hank Williams stopped by every so often to record 15-minute segments that were then played early in the morning. He sang some of his own songs and covered many of his personal favorites. His backing bands and singers were always top-notch. Best of all, the quality is exceptional. WSM clearly knew to take care of these acetates and the transfer to digital could not be better. Taken together, these factors add up to a perfect treasure. This is a collection for the obsessive, the skeptic, and even the novice, who will feel grateful rather than overwhelmed that there are a full three discs worth of material to plunder."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hank performs ten Roy Acuff covers on the Unreleased Recordings

by Brian Turpen

It is pretty well known that Hank had high regard and respect for Roy Acuff. In fact, on his shows during his early years, Hank was known to often sing songs by his idol. Hank is also known to have stated, “I was a pretty good imitator of Roy Acuff, but then I found out they already had a Roy Acuff, so I started singin’ like myself.” Even though Hank may have stopped trying to sing like Acuff, he didn’t stop singing songs Acuff had recorded. On the surviving Mother’s Best shows, there are many examples of Hank reviving Acuff’s tunes, or tunes associated with Acuff.

Time-Life’s compilation, Hank Williams, the Unreleased Recordings, includes 54 songs from the 72 surviving Mother’s Best shows, and 10 of those are associated with Acuff. Clearly, Hank’s respect for Acuff was still high even though his star had long eclipsed his idol’s. Hank gladly acknowledged his roots on the Mother’s Best shows, and no one influenced him more than Roy Acuff. The ten songs associated with Acuff or previously recorded by Acuff were Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Low And Lonely, Drifting Too Far From The Shore, The Prodigal Son, Searching For A Soldier’s Grave, Pins & Needles, Wait For The Light To Shine, The Pale Horse & His Rider, The Great Judgment Morning, and Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine. The latter has a slightly different story because it appears as though Hank demo’d the song on behalf of its writers for Acuff. It is thought that Hank did this as a favor to his producer/ music publisher, Fred Rose, and the song’s composers, Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart. Rose pitched the song to Acuff, who recorded it in September 1951.

Although these ten songs may have been put on disc by Acuff, one can tell that Hank didn’t just do covers of the song for his morning radio show. As one will notice when listening, Hank put his own indelible mark on his versions.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Latest Hank Online Reviews

Few artists lay claim to places in history like Hank Williams. He sits among the elite who pioneered not just a genre or style, but the music of an entire nation. Williams shares his lofty perch with the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, The Beatles, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, Jimi Hendrix, and Robert Johnson. You don’t often see Bird and Wills listed in the same sentence, but there you go.

With songs of loneliness and heartache, Hank Williams influenced the entirety of American songwriting. His work sits as a crucial link in the evolution of American music, marrying the traditions of western swing, bluegrass, and gospel. His style would pave way for the early rock n’ roll giants Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, among others. More recently, his influence can be found in the alternative-country and folk worlds with artists like Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, Darrell Scott, and Lyle Lovett.

Read more at Muzik Review

Hank Williams wasn't around very long to enjoy the spotlight, as he didn't come to the public's attention in a big way until 1949 and was dead four years later, so there has never been a huge library of his recordings available for fans to listen too. However, back in 1950-51 he recorded a series of radio shows that were sponsored by Mother's Best Flour, and because of his extensive touring schedule he was forced to pre-record the shows on acetate discs. It's these recordings that Time Life have used as the source for their new release Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings. The three CDs come handsomely packaged in a tall hard cover package that opens like a book. On the inside front cover are the first two CDs, followed by thirty-eight pages of photographs and text giving the history of the recordings and Williams' biography, with the third disc on the inside of the back cover.

Hank treats his audience to many popular tunes such as “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” A song or two of his studio work has traces of what will become rock ‘n’ roll. Listen to the lyrics again to “Hey, Good Looking;” you got hot rods, soda, and dancing dates. He’s only a few steps away from truly being the granddaddy of rockabilly. Check out “Cherokee Boogie,” “California Zephyr” and “a little masterpiece of nonsense,” as Hank introduces it, titled “Mind Your Own Business” with its added edgy verse about getting knocked around by the missus.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hank Williams Blogcritics Review

Nearly sixty years have gone by since the world lost Hank Williams Sr. yet his haunting voice and music continue to tug at our souls and pull us into the dark night of his own, expressed in his songs and the way he delivered them. Time Life has finally put out The Unreleased Recordings of Hank Williams. These recordings, drawn from remaining acetates cut in 1951 for his fifteen-minute radio show sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour on WSM Nashville, were to air while he was on the road touring and unable to make the 7:15am start time Monday through Friday. These 54 offerings of Hank’s heart show a different side of the man and allow us to see a bit further into his tragically short life.

Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New York Times Article on The Unreleased Recordings


Many of Hank Williams’s studio records were nearly perfect, and his voice-and-guitar demos have a trudging, spooky power. But this is something new: three hours’ worth of radio performances with his band, recorded for 15-minute spots on the Nashville station WSM in 1951, at Williams’s commercial peak and before his health turned. (About a year later he would be dead.) Upbeat, he calls out to soloists in his band with satisfaction and pours himself into the performance. His wife Audrey, talentless at singing, is not here: a big plus. The repertory forms a trustworthy picture of his sound world: not just his own songs but white and black gospel, cowboy tunes, obscure contemporary nothings (“You Blotted My Happy Schooldays”), a weirdly breathtaking “On Top of Old Smoky.” And his voice! These recordings get the fullness and breadth of it, the cool, plummy croon turning to a hot laser through some trick of throat and nose. Truly one of the best records ever. (Time-Life, three CDs, $39.98.) BEN RATLIFF

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New York Times proclaims "ONE OF THE BEST RECORDS EVER."

Yes, it's true.  

The article will be posted shortly.

Here's  a nice review from a British publication in the interim. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Muzik Review

Highlights from the first disc include renditions of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Hey Good Lookin’”, and “On Top of Old Smoky”. The recordings themselves are tastefully restored, capturing the warmth of Hank’s voice, and the delicate balance of these live performances.
The second disc opens with his classic “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)”. It goes on to feature his original “California Zephyr”, along with quite a few gospel classics. On the third disc, Hank does his interpretation of Albert Brumley’s “I’ll Fly Away”, a version of that tune can be heard on the acclaimed soundtrack to the film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. The upbeat “Mind Your Own Business”, and one of the great under-rated ballads, “There’s Nothing As Sweet As My Baby” take center stage on this final set. Ominously, the set closes with “The Pale Horse and His Rider”.