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Hank Williams

The Garden Spot Program 1950 – 2014 (Omnivore)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Hank Williams

In a career that spanned a mere six years - a minuscule amount of time compared to those who are today celebrating anniversaries of 40, 50 or even 60 years of more - Hank Williams established himself as an abiding influence on all those who followed, a man whose music is as relevant and revered today as it was when it was originally recorded. Indeed, what Williams accomplished in that scant amount of time still resonates nearly 70 years later.

There's been an abundance of compilations, anthologies and tributes that have dotted the virtual record store shelves since Williams' untimely passing some 62 years ago, not to mention any number of unreleased recordings to boot. Yet, no sooner have his devotees declared that his heirs must have finally reached the bottom of the barrel, along comes "The Garden Spot Program 1950," a collection of radio broadcasts that featured Williams as the show's frequent featured contributor. They offered the singer an ideal platform to plug his new recordings - and presumably get compensated as well - and hearing them now all these years later, the performances are quite impressive. There's a clarity to these recordings, owing to the musicians, musicianship and the remarkable job of salvaging tapes most didn't even know existed. That this makes this an incomparable treasure trove of discovery goes without saying. It's a must both for his fans and for those who may not have heard him in that seminal stage until now.

Then there's the songs themselves, the primary draw to begin with. Most are maudlin and melancholy as was Williams' penchant, but regardless, hearing "A Mansion on the Hill," "Lovesick Blues" and his cover of the traditional gospel hymn "Farther Along" is, in itself a revelation. Four shows are included in their entirety, with introductions, performances and a standard closing theme that incorporates an instrumental take on "Oh! Susanna." Overall, it allows us to revisit a simpler time, but more importantly, it provides a glimpse back to an era that found Hank Williams laying the foundation for Americana music.