Various Artists

Honky Tonk Country Music 1945-1953

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Born in Oklahoma and Texas during World War II, honky tonk grew and spread until it eventually stood front and center in most people's perception of what real country music was, and given its most frequent theme -- drinking -- and its first person perception, which made everyday anti-heroes out of its performers, honky tonk became a staple on barroom jukeboxes, which probably did more to spread the style than any radio station did. This two-disc set collects several early honky tonk sides by the likes of Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell and the genre's acknowledged peak performer, Hank Williams. Williams in particular turned the honky tonk lifestyle of wild drinking and fast living followed by the bouts of deep regret that always trailed in the wake into scores of brilliant songs, including the eerily prophetic "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," one of two Williams songs included here. At its most ridiculous, honky tonk can be a parody of itself, but more than a few of the genre's performers have deliberately aimed at that, producing absurd scenarios full of a delightful drunken humor that ultimately says a lot about the need to deal with each day's disappointments. Some people sing about them, some people drink them temporarily away, and some people do both. That's honky tonk. Here's where it started.

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