Triple Played: Oct. 28-Nov. 3
Everybody knows Hank Williams is a country music legend.
But I think he was not just a country artist but an American treasure much like Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash.
Williams’ songs crossed over several genres and many of them were basically blues songs.
One of my favorite, if not my very favorite, Williams song is “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” with these great lines:
“I’m gonna find me a river, one that’s cold as ice. And when I find me that river, Lord I’m gonna pay the price, I’m goin’ down in it three times, but Lord I’m only comin’ up twice. She’s long gone, and now I’m lonesome blue.”
That is classic songwriting and just one of the many great songs Williams wrote in his short troubled life.
“Jambalaya,” “Honky Tonkin’ ” and “Hey Good Lookin’,” a song my mother used to sing to me when I was small, were cheerful songs, but for the most part Hank’s songs were sad.
“Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “Lost Highway” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” were stories of his life, and that is why they were so influential.
When I interviewed Tom Russell, I asked him about Williams and how close the blues and country music are to each other.
Russell said that Woody Guthrie, Williams, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan “understood” the “fine line” between the genres, and that helped set them apart.
On Oct. 4, “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams” was released on Dylan’s Egyptian Records. The landmark set was put together by Dylan after he was asked to pick 12 songs from the four notebooks of lyrics, phrases, general thoughts and the makings of over 60 songs that Williams left behind.
The original intent was for Dylan to set the chosen dozen sets of lyrics to music, but he didn’t want to do it all alone so he chose several artists to help him.
In a testament to the diversity of Williams’ music and Dylan’s insightfulness, the artists include Williams’ female counterpart in Lucinda Williams, his friend Levon Helm and Dylan’s son, Jakob Dylan.
Patty Loveless, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell from Nashville, Jack White from the White Stripes, Norah Jones and Williams’ granddaughter Holly Williams were also asked to contribute.
Jackson opens the album with a spot-on imitation of Hank in “You’ve Been Lonesome Too” followed by Dylan in excellent voice with “The Love That Faded.”
White is incredible with the hauntingly beautiful “You Know That I Know” and Lucinda Williams couldn’t sound any better on “I’m So Happy I Found You” followed by Gill and Crowell with the hilarious “I Hope You Shed A Million Tears.”
The second half of the disc begins with the spirited “Your Through Fooling Me” by Loveless and “You’ll Never Again Be Mine” from Helm, who makes it sound like an old Band tune.
“Blue Is My Heart” finds Holly Williams in a duet with her father Hank Jr.
“Oh Mama, Come Home” is wonderfully presented by Jakob Dylan in pure folk fashion followed by Sheryl Crow with the beautiful love song “Angel Mine.”
Haggard rightfully closes the disc with the beautiful gospel song “The Sermon On the Mount.”
Listening to this amazing CD makes me wonder why Hank Williams didn’t release the songs himself. Maybe he just ran out of time.