Various Artists

Weary Blues: The Songs of Hank Williams

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As country's first true modern performer and songwriter, Hank Williams understood the blues on a fundamental level, and although he didn't sing or write blues pieces in the strict sense of the form, he grasped that the blues was essentially one man's troubles personalized and made to stand in for the listener's own. That his own life was a honky tonk soap opera of mythic proportions only added to the power of what he performed, and the illusion that he was publicly singing about his own life at every turn continues even today to give his work a tremendous resonance. This odd collection of relatively obscure Hank Williams songs done by artists ranging from Ray Price to Roy Acuff has a bleak, desperate, and eerie cast to it, and while nothing here is truthfully the blues the way, say, Blind Lemon Jefferson would do it, the difference is marginal, and the sense of loss and personal misery that permeates these sides makes it easy to see why country has been called the white man's blues. Haunting, spare, and eerie, tracks like Ray Price's take on "Weary Blues from Waitin'" sound absolutely exhausted, while the lyrics to "Evening Train" (sung here by Molly O'Day), which detail an infant's eyes gone red from weeping and how its "little heart is filled with pain," are about as grim as things can get. It may not be the blues in form, but it damn sure is in content. This isn't a collection for 2-steps. It's a collection for staring into the desperate center of a wounded heart.

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