Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Hank Williams, The Unreleased Recordings (Time Life Entertainment, $39.98)
The story of these 54 songs spread over three CDs is worth the price of the box.
The late Hank Williams recorded a series of shows, some 72 of them, for WSM radio back in 1951, a mere two years before his death. The legendary station was about to dump those acetates. But a photographer for WSM's Grand Ole Opry saved them from the trash and handed them to Jett Williams, Hank's daughter.
Extensive legal wrangling later, we have this handsome book-style box featuring an essay by Jett and thoughtful song annotations by music historian Colin Escott.
All that pales in comparison to the restored quality. It's astounding how crisp, clear and high-lonesome ol' Hank sounds. It's as if he were singing right next to you.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Country CDs With Legs
Recordings and reissues in 2008 that are likely to last
With the many "best" lists out this time of year, I thought I'd up the ante a little and suggest a short list of new country releases and historic issues and reissues that seem most likely to last. As with all lists in this genre, there's that "What do you mean by country?" question to clarify. In this case, it means CDs released as country, unquestionably for the country audience. If this set does not include such strong close-to-country releases as Shelby Lynne's smart, soulful Dusty Springfield salute, "Just a Little Lovin'," Glenn Campbell's touching country-pop tinged turn on modern rock, "Meet Glen Campbell," or the memorable shaggy-dog ballads of Hayes Carll's "Trouble in Mind," that's why.
REISSUES & HISTORIC
"The Unreleased Recordings"
These live radio performances from Hank's early morning "Mother's Best Flour" shows of 1950-51 were held out of circulation for years, due to litigation, and now emerge in this boxed set as among the strongest Williams performances on record -- startling in their immediacy and sound quality, and showing a relaxed, teasing Hank who's more a singer of hymns and his favorite standards ("Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You") than a doomed, star-crossed icon. That's priceless.