Music Reviews
Hank Williams

Hank Williams

The Complete Mother’s Best Recordings

Time Life

In 1951 Hank Williams was as big a star as country music had ever seen. By the next year, his drinking got him kicked off the Grand Ole Opry, and in 1953 he was dead at the age of 29. It is nearly impossible to overstate his importance – or the importance of this massive set of recordings done for the Mother’s Best company. With 15 CDs, a DVD, hardback book and more, this is enough Hank to keep even the most rabid fan sated “till the cows come home,” as they say.

The shows Williams and the Drifting Cowboys recorded for Mother’s Best in 1951 followed a simple pattern. After an introduction by the Mother’s Best spokesman, Hank would perform a song, then a pitch for baking flour or other Mother’s Best products, followed by a number by the Drifting Cowboys (Hank’s longtime road band) or one from Audrey Williams, Hank’s wife at the time. A gospel song rounded out the fifteen minutes. Broadcast at 7 am, America woke up to shows like this, and got to hear a wealth of music the likes of which is sorely lacking today. This set nearly doubles the number of available Hank Williams recordings, including moments such as “Drifting Too Far from the Shore” and “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies”, showing Williams to be an adept stylist of American music, beyond just being a great songwriter.

This monumental set, housed in a reproduction tube radio (that actually works!), and weighing about 10 pounds, means even the most devoted fan ain’t gonna lug this thing around. So here’s a tip. Rip it all to the ipod, and make playlists of Hank and the Cowboys. Avoid at all costs the songs that Audrey “sings” on, because her voice would scare a screech owl out of the sky. What you’ll be left with is a stunning document of one of the greatest American musicians who lived too hard and died too young. Oh, but what a sweet song he left.

Hank Williams / Mother’s Best:

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