Hank Williams completely redefined country music and moved it into the modern arena in the years just after World War II, and his infectious, confessional, and brilliantly written songs of hard love and hard drinkin' still remain the center template for country music in the 21st century. Williams lived his life so close to his honky tonk persona that in the end it is impossible to tell where one ended and the other began, making his story a postmodern one of the anti-hero with tragic flaws who wins because he first risks and then loses everything. And the songs! Part blues and part Tin Pan Alley, Williams' songs are succinct, folksy gems that sketch out a timeless honky tonk soap opera with Williams at the center, but what saves them from being set pieces is the very real and basic emotions that Williams spotlights in song after song. The best of them are simply brilliant expressions of loneliness and a desperate longing for redemption. This two-disc set from Living Era offers all the proof of Williams' unique genius that any listener would ever need, as classic song after classic songs rolls by, including "Move It on Over," "Honky Tonkin'," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "You Win Again," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and the eerily prescient "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive." The insert booklet details each track, including the playing personnel, release dates, and chart positions, making this both an excellent introduction to Williams and a solid overview of his essential songs. Hank Williams still remains the single most important artist in the history of country music, and the evidence is all here in this two-disc set.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
Track Listing - Disc 1