Hank Williams

Hank Williams Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

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1951 was a breakthrough year for Hank Williams. He had a string of moderate country hits already under his belt, but the release that year of his version of an old jazz age novelty tune called "Lovesick Blues," originally recorded in 1922 by Elsie Clark and given a country arrangement in 1939 by Rex Griffin (the template for Williams' version), suddenly made him a big star. It also meant his touring schedule increased, but he still found time that year to slip into Nashville and prerecord shows for the Mother's Best Flour Company. These good-natured and intimate performances were cut to acetate discs and then played over the air on Nashville's WSM radio station. Brittle, disposable, and made for only a few plays, these acetates were then shelved and forgotten until they were literally rescued from the trash in the '70s by an alert WSM employee. In all, 72 of these shows survived, containing some 143 songs, and this three-disc set is the second installment in Time Life's CD preservation of this amazing treasure trove. The performances are intimate and relaxed, and Williams tackles an amazingly varied set list, singing old mountain ballads, hymns, cowboy tunes, and delivers recitations of parlor poems and other various cautionary tales as well. What emerges is a full, rounded portrait of Williams at his creative and commercial peak. "Lovesick Blues" is here, along with fine versions of "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," "A Mansion on the Hill," and the Williams-composed gospel classic "I Saw the Light," among others, including a spirited instrumental romp through the old fiddle tune "Eighth of January," which celebrated the British defeat at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815 (Jimmie Driftwood added lyrics to the tune and had a huge hit with the resulting "The Battle of New Orleans" in 1959). That these long-lost recordings are an absolute treasure simply goes without saying. Hank Williams was country music's first modern superstar and that all these years later, we are given several hours of Williams performing in an intimate setting just as he was beginning to break across the nation's radar, is nothing short of a miracle.

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