Tall, charismatic, and eschewing rustic hillbilly stage outfits in favor of sleek, tailored Nudie suits, Hank Williams was country music's first true superstar. But it is Williams' songwriting that has ensured his legacy more than anything, and his songs -- which mixed hillbilly elements with blues and gospel, all with a firm grasp of how to shade in some Tin Pan Alley techniques -- crossed over regularly to the pop charts, and have continued to hold up well even into the 21st century. Songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which has a spare, poetic structure so efficient it could be a haiku, and "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," which manages to be funny, ironic, and prophetically frightening all at once, don't happen by accident, and show an awareness of craft that has a good deal more in common with Irving Berlin than it does Uncle Dave Macon. This set doesn't really make the ideal introduction to Williams, since it lacks several of his best songs ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" isn't here, for instance), but it does have "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," "Your Cheatin' Heart," and the iconic "Lost Highway," and any collection of Williams songs is going to deliver. He was that good.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett