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Monday, Jan. 19, 2009

Hank Williams

The Unreleased Recordings (Time/Life)

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When Hank Williams died at the age of 29 he had released 61 songs. In spite of this relatively small amount of material, Williams found himself at the apex of country music.

Since 1953, Williams' estate has milked revenue from the deceased star's recordings in ways that make the Jimi Hendrix vultures look like amateurs, and endless repackaging projects of Hank's songs continue to this day. Why, then, did it take more than 50 years for these radio recordings to see official release? It's a long and twisted tale, but in a word: money.

Certainly these are not the first worthwhile finds. In the past 25 years, various sources have legitimately released demo recordings, live Opry broadcasts and a different set of radio transcriptions called The Health & Happiness Shows. All are great. However, the newly released Mother's Best radio programs dig deeper.

Because these broadcasts were not purposefully created to further his career, Williams is free to sing what he pleases, often performing material that he recorded nowhere else. Here we witness Hank playing various country and religious songs that clearly moved him. For example, his affection for the maudlin can be seen in his choice of "The Blind Child's Prayer." Williams' sincerity is so unquestioned, and his talent as a performer so great, that the listener can't help but weep with the singer over this sad tale.