If there were but one lonesome reason to give country music a chance that reason would be named Hank Williams. Hank was a lightning strike across the face of American music: brilliant, dangerous, crooked, electrifying and short lived. They say that the temperature around a lightning strike is several times hotter than the sun. That is an apt descriptor of the searing influence Hank had on popular music.
The songs he wrote and sang between the age of 25 (1949) and 29 (1953) when he died in the back of a Cadillac are every bit as enduring as any other songbook by any other American song writer, including the Gershwins, the Berlins, Cole Porter and Bob Dylan. Country music was changed completely after Hank. It was his ability to compress the emotional whirlwind of the human spirit into a 3 minute song that has made songs like, Cold Cold Heart, You Win Again, Hey Good Lookin’, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (to name just a few titles) instant classics. Shakespearian in their profundity, alarming in their simplicity.
Alas, he lived the life he wrote about and like that lightning flash he came and he went in barely the blink of an eye. His son Hank Jr. never really knew him but went on to become as rowdy as Dad. Hank III, keeps the flame alive today. Hank’s songs are still recorded by contemporary musicians from all sorts of backgrounds. He is not merely a country singer, but an American and indeed, a musical giant.
Tonight’s post is a doubleheader. First a 2001 collection of some of Hank’s best known songs by a jury of outstanding rockers and rollers.
01 I Can't Get You Off of My Mind. (Bob Dylan)
02 Long Gone Lonesome Blues (Sheryl Crow)
03 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Keb’ Mo’)
04 Your Cheatin' Heart (Beck)
05 Lost on the River (Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler)
06 You're Gonna Change (Or I'm gonna leave) (Tom Petty)
07 You Win Again (Keith Richards)
08 Alone and Forsaken (Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler)
09 I'm a Long Gone Daddy (Hank Williams III)
10 Lovesick Blues (Ryan Adams)
11 Cold, cold Heart (Lucinda Williams)
12 I Dreamed About Mama Last Night (Johnny Cash)
Next up is the son singing the songs of the father. An album from the 1960s when Hank Jr. was just getting started in the music business.
01. Long Gone Lonesome Blues
02. Your Cheatin’ Heart
03. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
04. I’m a Long Gone Daddy
05. Cold Cold Heart
06. Hey, Good Lookin’
07. You Win Again
08. Moanin’ the Blues
09. I Can’t Help It
10. There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight
12. Mansion on the Hill