Hank Williams
"The Unreleased Recordings"

(Time Life 2008)Hank Williams - The Unreleased Recordings

It's a phrase that, when asked what one's favorite music genres are, gets tossed around quite a bit: "anything but country." And when achy breaky hearts and honky tonk badonkadonks are all that seep into the public consciousness, you can understand why the style is so maligned. It seems that the only real exception is Johnny Cash, who thanks to Joaquin Crazypants, has managed to stay relevant to an entirely new generation of listeners. Inexplicably, this same level of recognition had eluded Hank Williams, a no less important or iconic musical personality as the Man in Black. Now, perhaps hoping to give Hank's music a broader reach (and no doubt smelling the opportunity for some bank), Time Life has rolled out "The Unreleased Recordings."

"The Unreleased Recordings" were originally cut in 1951 as part of a daily radio series sponsored by the Mother's Best flour company. The recordings were subsequently lost until they turned up during a dizzying legal fiasco involving Hank's daughter Jett. This 3-disc set takes the choicest cuts from those 15 minute radio shows, with a fantastic remastering job that practically eliminates the degradation you'd expect from source material so old. Among the 54 tunes are Hank standards, unrecorded songs, and covers of both then-contemporary country hits and country gospel interpretations. Hank's voice takes center stage here; it's pushed way up in the mix, and rightly so. He's in top form, tackling mournful self-reflexive laments and upbeat barnburners with equal aplomb. The set comes in packaging featuring extensive notes about the recording of these songs, and information about each individual track.

Although these songs were recorded almost 60 years ago, they display more passion and talent than any country or pop music being released today. You don't need to be a fan of country music (believe me, I ain't) to get into "The Unreleased Recording." All you really need is an appreciation for one of America's great artists, recorded at the apex of his considerable talents. Forget mullets and idiotic dances, this is what country music is really all about.

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