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Hank Williams

The Unreleased Hank Williams – 2008 (Time Life)

Reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh

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CDs by Hank Williams

Today it would be unthinkable that one of country music's current superstars would make live recordings to be aired on one commercial radio station on an almost daily basis. But the world of Hank Williams in 1951 was quite different than anything in the genre today. Fortunately through some legal battles Hank's daughter Jett came into possession of recordings made by her father for WSM in that year, and the highlights are in this three-disc set. The programs were aired at 7:15 a.m. in Nashville and sponsored by Alabama Flour Mills. They were called the "Mother's Best" recordings.

Obviously this is just the cream of the crop because he recorded nearly 150 tunes in those programs, but it is a healthy cross-section of what you'd expect from Williams if a casual fan or a die-hard follower. These 54 cuts are more than just the songs because often the introductions are included between the songs. Even his deteriorating physical condition is documented when he explains on one show that he is sitting down and hopes he can get back up.

It might surprise some fans and how high the percentage of gospel material is included. Close to a third of the numbers are in that vein. The quality of the recordings is surprisingly good considering the age and the method used to capture the program originally. There are many of his best-known in this collection, but there's also a few songs people have associated with others like Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Cool Water and Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.

These recordings were made just two years from his untimely death and represent Williams at his relaxed, down-home best. It might be too much for all save the most loyal of his fans, but as a historical document, it is nearly unrivaled in the genre.