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Friday, Oct. 14, 2011

Various Artists

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (Egyptian/CMF/Columbia)

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This is the second recording on Bob Dylan's private label, Egyptian, the first since 1997's The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A TributeThe Rodgers' CD contained artists paying tribute to him.  The Hank Williams, Sr.is quite different in that the participants have created music where none existed for Williams' lyrics. In other words, contemporary artists are finishing his unfinished songs.

The Lost Notebooks
songs were created from four notebooks that Williams left at the time of his death in the back of a Cadillac on New Year's morning of 1953 at age 29.  The lyrics were kept at Williams' publisher, Acuff-Rose, who preserved them by first typing the lyrics directly from the notebooks and then cataloging them for copyright.  Bob Dylan was originally going to craft the music for all 12 songs on this recording but instead wrote one melody himself and brought in Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Levon Helm, Holly Williams, Jacob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Merle Haggard.  Each contributor was given 25 lyrics and complete artistic freedom.

The results do not disappoint. Hank's granddaughter, Holly Williams, performs with her father, Hank Williams, Jr., on “Blue Is My Heart,” and Dylan's son Jacob performs a song entitled “Oh, Mama, Come Home.” 
We have an inner-family affair here with two of the CD's intriguing numbers.

The real standouts are Alan Jackson's “You've Been Lonesome, Too”; Jack White's “You Know That I Know”; Patty Loveless' “You're Through Fooling Me”; Levon Helm's “You'll Never Again Be Mine”; and Dylan's “The Love That Faded.” But all of the songs ring true in an uncanny, authentic manner. 
The artists were told to create the music, but also to complete the lyrics if necessary.  The latter directive is ridiculous but acceptable due to the seamless, successful totality of this CD.  The former works as haunting as the melodic vision of a lost Caddy headed for the next gig with Hank strumming the very tunes we hear at this show, finally gotten to in a heavenly venue entitled The Lost Notebooks.