Del Shannon

Del Shannon Sings Hank Williams

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While tribute albums nowadays are commonplace, a quick examination of history 30 years ago shows us that it wasn't always thus. And when they did occur, it was usually a tip of the hat to some long-standing show-business icon like Al Jolson. Certainly departed country music stars like Hank Williams were considered outside the pale of such honors, which is only one of the reasons why this tribute album by rocker Del Shannon stands out as being something rarified and great. Shannon -- like most aspiring rockers -- grew up on Williams' songs and once success allowed him to show that side of his musical equation, he jumped at the opporunity. But rather than cutting a dozen tepid updates of Hank's best ("Kaw-LIga," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Hey Good Lookin," etc.), awash in a sea of strings and female choruses, Shannon was smart enough to keep the music firmly in the style of Williams' backup band, the Drifting Cowboys. Although several Motown session players -- including Dennis "Scorpio" Coffey on lead guitar -- are on this session, the net result is heartfelt, understated country music with plenty of steel guitar to the fore, the kind you'd hear at the kinds of beer halls in Saginaw, MI, where Shannon honed his craft. Del sings the songs straight, minus any of his trademarked falsetto embellishments, and the result is one of the best straight forward country albums you'll ever hear.

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