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Various Artists

Timeless – 2001 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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For a man who probably never wrote a song with more than four chords in his whole life, the music of Hank Williams continues to resonate strongly, nearly five decades after his death. Indeed, his songs have been covered in dozens of different genres over the years; from Tony Bennett to artsy San Francisco weirdoes the Residents.

Featuring contributions from a veritable Who's Who of the roots rock world, this is a surprisingly sleepy affair. Though things kick off in a spirited fashion with Bob Dylan's raspy "I Can't Get You Off of My Mind," most of the other interpretations heard here wouldn't sound out of place in front of a cozy fire with a warm glass of milk. Beck's "Your Cheatin' Heart" comes off as a lullaby for particularly hip toddlers. Lucinda Williams' lethargic "Cold, Cold Heart" takes an already slow number down to about half of its original speed; outdone only by Keith Richards' lurching "You Win Again," which is even slower still (though, to be fair, Keith sounds great). Still, there is some fire to be found here and there in the grooves. Tom Petty's straight rendition of "You're Gonna Change" finds Petty emulating Hank's distinctive vocal style, while "I'm a Long Gone Daddy" finds Hank Williams III sounding nearly indistinguishable from Wayne Hancock.

And Johnny Cash continues his status as country music's Mt. Rushmore, closing out the album with a stripped-down and weathered, yet tremendously dignified rendition of "I Dreamed About Mama Last Night."

Much of what's here makes for compelling enough listening, though a few more uptempo numbers along the lines of "Honky Tonkin'" and "Move It On Over" would likely have balanced out the album a little better.