Tall, charismatic, and eschewing rustic 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. This set has a couple of his better known songs, including "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Ramblin' Man," but most of these tracks are on the obscure side, which means this collection needs to be a supplementary purchase rather than an initial one. Williams was remarkably consistent as a recording artist (a fact made all the more amazing when one considers the constant chaos that seemed to dominate his adult life), so even a set of his more obscure sides is still worth having.
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