I am not, generally speaking, a big fan of country music. For some reason when I think of country music today I think of songs with names like “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goal Posts of Life)” — I know that song was recorded in 1976 but it seems to be a sign of what was to come. When it comes to the music of Hank Williams, on the other hand, I make an exception. He wrote masterful lyrics and sang beautifully. I don’t properly own any classic Hank Williams albums but I have enjoyed listening to recordings of him on Spotify and watching videos of him online.
I was therefore happy to find out that there would be a new Hank Williams album — well, in a way. Titled The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, the album is a collection of songs that were recorded by various artists from Norah Jones to Merle Haggard and others. The lyrics were written by Hank Williams but for various reasons were never recorded by him. This brings up an entire question about the intent of an artist and when artists intentionally do not publish their art in their lifetime — and whether it is okay to publish it after they pass away. (Emily Dickinson comes to mind, naturally.)
The lyrics of course are exceptional — nothing less can be expected from Hank Williams. Take, for example, the sad song “Oh, Mama, Come Home” —
Your daddy is getting worried so blue I can’t see
Cooking for these youngins is slowly killing me
Oh mama, come home, oh mama, come home
Oh mama, come home, your daddy is all alone
It is nice to see the different artists recording these powerful words. Here is a video of Norah Jones with Elvis Costello performing “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?”
There are some who would say that nobody captures the beautiful lyrics of Hank Williams better than Hank Williams. I would agree with this completely but having established this as an idea, hearing his words sung by other masterful musicians is quite enjoyable as well.