Saturday, December 31, 2011


I usually don't include compilation albums on my year-end best-ofs, but I'll make an exception for The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams. The album started out as a Bob Dylan project: he was given some "lost" notebooks with lyrics that Hank Williams never put to music.  Bob ended up doing one song, "The Love That Faded," which is excellent.

So, it went from being a Bob album to a tribute of sorts... with a number of big name artists creating new songs out of Williams lyrics.  The lineup features Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill with Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Levon Helm, Holly Williams (with her father, Hank Williams Jr. on backing vocals), Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Merle Haggard.

I imagine that these days, people are more likely to download individual tracks rather than buy compilations.  In this case, it's worth it to pick up the whole thing.  First of all, the entire album is great.  Rock fans may not be hip to, say, Alan Jackson, but his song "You've Been Lonesome Too" is excellent. On the flipside, mainstream country fans may not be too interested in (Nashville resident) Jack White.  But his song "You Know That I Know" is also amazing. Hank's granddaughter Holly has a great voice... and hearing Hank Jr.'s backing vocals almost made me forget about his insane comments on Fox News about The President.

Besides all of that, the CD includes extensive liner notes about Hank, and gives the history of the notebooks that provided the source material for the record.

Hank Williams is surely one of the greatest songwriters of all time, in any genre. This album gives us some of his lost lyrics, which is a gift.  And if the inclusion of any of these artists turns their fanbases on to Hank's music, that's an even greater one.  So big props to producer Mary Martin: I'm sure this was a really long project, but I'm glad it's out.

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