Album: Hank Williams

The Complete Collection, SPECTRUM
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The Independent Culture

Leaving aside the question of exactly what constitutes a "complete" collection of such a prolific songsmith as Hank Williams - rather more than these 59 tracks, one suspects - it must be acknowledged that this triple-album offers a fairly comprehensive account of this seminal giant of the American vernacular. The set is divided into one disc of Greatest Hits, one of Live Recordings, and a third, catch-all Many Sides Of selection - though these are hardly reliable divisions: in which topsy-turvy universe is the workmanlike "Crazy Heart" considered somehow greater than "I Saw The Light", a crucial expression of the ethical conflicts that powered Williams' work, here relegated to also-ran status? Still, we shouldn't let shoddy presentation detract from such a masterclass of the songwriter's art. Williams' genius lay partly in his unerring ability to articulate the lifestyle and concerns of his blue-collar audience in songs such as "Hey Good Lookin'", and partly in the way he dealt with sadness in a heartfelt but jocular manner that reflected his fans' stiff-upper-lip attitude to emotional pain, in songs such as "Your Cheatin' Heart". The next time someone lauds hacks like Diane Warren and Albert Hammond as great songwriters, this is the box to stuff down their throat.