Album: Various Artists, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (Egyptian/Sony)

4.00

 

When Hank Williams died en route to a gig early on New Year's Day 1953, alongside him in the back seat of the Cadillac was a briefcase containing his notebooks, full of unfinished songs, orphaned lyrics to which he had yet to add melodies. The job has been finished here by a cohort of illustrious performers including Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Jack White and Sheryl Crow, each offering their own twist on Williams's trademark style.

Some follow the template a touch slavishly, albeit fruitfully: Alan Jackson's "You've Been Lonesome, Too" brings the fatalistic lilt of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to mind vividly, the singer sympathetically evoking Hank's demotic tone in lines like "You're travelling on the street of grief/ Yes, you've been lonesome, too". It's the communal sentiment underlying such ostensibly personal heartache that gives Williams's songs much of their power, that draws the listener in as an emotional fellow-traveller; likewise, the inveterate liar fingered in Jack White's tremulous delivery of "You Know That I Know" is exposed for all of us to condemn, despite his devious wiles: "You may fool the rest of the world, but you know that I know".

Unsurprisingly, the dozen tracks are heavily weighted towards the sad and lonely heartbreak of which Williams is the unchallenged master – residing a hundred floors above the rest of them in the "Tower of Song", as Leonard Cohen generously acknowledged. Despite the project being released through his Egyptian label, Bob Dylan has unselfishly left the more notable lyrics to other performers, restricting himself to a fairly cliched country waltz, "The Love That Faded", presented in his inimitably quixotic manner. Levon Helm, his voice now thankfully all but completely recovered from the debilitations of throat cancer, lands an authentic twang of pained Southern nobility to "You'll Never Again Be Mine", while Norah Jones brings a deep melancholy to her harmonies on "How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?", where the Spanish guitar line imposes a sense of bitten-back tears, a musical stiff upper lip.

Most of the arrangements stick to the tried and tested simple country settings that served Williams's songs so well; the exceptions include Levon's mandolin and fiddle treatment of "You'll Never Again Be Mine" and Sheryl Crow's lilting approach to "Angel Mine", where period horns and mandolin evoke a specifically 1940s atmosphere. Elsewhere, a couple of the tracks deliberately play with the moralistic, religious overtones employed by Williams in his alter-ego Luke The Drifter. Merle Haggard brings the appropriate Biblical gravitas to "The Sermon on the Mount", advising us to "take the straight and narrow, do good things that count, and live your life by the Sermon on the Mount", while Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell even add substantial Luke-style spoken sections to their waltz-time rendition of "I Hope You Shed a Million Tears", ironically offering one of Hank's less Christian sentiments: "The Bible says forgive you, but that's something I can't do".

DOWNLOAD THIS: You've Been Lonesome, Too; I Hope You Shed a Million Tears; You'll Never Again Be Mine; How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?; The Sermon on the Mount

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food