Patrick Norman

Where I Come From: A Tribute to Hank Williams

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Where I Come From: A Tribute to Hank Williams is a tastefully produced album by Patrick Norman that is among his best studio releases in some time. Born Yvon Éthier, the Quebecois country singer/songwriter has put out a lot of albums over the course of his multi-decade career, and the multiple Félix award nominations that he's been showered with during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s are a testament to the high levels of consistency and quality that have come to define his recording output. After so many albums over so many years, it's a bit surprising that Norman hasn't done more tribute albums along the lines of Where I Come From: A Tribute to Hank Williams. He once did a tribute album to Kenny Rogers that proved popular, Hommage à Kenny Rogers (1986), but that was a quarter-century ago and it was partly comprised of French-language interpretations. In contrast, Where I Come From: A Tribute to Hank Williams is sung entirely in English and performed in a straightforward manner respectful toward the original material, not only the lyrics but also the musical backing. After all, the songbook of Hank Williams is so filled with country classics, there's no need for experimentation. In general, the dozen classics selected by Norman here are best performed as they originally were by Williams -- sparely and with an emphasis on the clever lyrics. Norman may not be an exceptional vocalist like Williams, but he's not bad by any measure and is actually quite good in English, without a noticable French accent. Moreover, he sings with passion and makes his love for this material crystal clear. He's at his best as a guitarist, of course, and evokes the original spirit of these songs without playing all over them the way some guitar virtuosos might. In addition to his vocals and guitar, there are spare touches of percussion, fiddle, and background vocals. Though practically every song here is a highlight, his takes on "Kaw-Liga" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" are most special.

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