Hank Williams

Come September: An Introduction to Hank Williams

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Eschewing hillbilly stage outfits in favor of sleek, tailored Nudie suits, Hank Williams was country music's first true superstar, and he was more than aware that a little motion on-stage drove the ladies crazy. 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. Both of these songs are collected here, but some of Williams' best-known songs like "Jambalaya" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," to name just two, are not, so while this little anthology is fine as far as it goes, it might not be, in spite of its title, the best introduction to Williams. It'll do, but there are better packages out there.

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