Hank Williams: The Legend Begins

By James Calemine

These recordings include Hank’s first session at 15 as well as his lost syndicated Radio Series. This remarkable 3-CD set features restored recordings of previously unheard Hank Williams music.

One disc features Hank as a teenager recording in the kitchen of a Montgomery, Alabama, DJ. Previously unheard tracks recorded in 1940 such as “San Antonio Rose”, “St. Louis Blues”, “Green Back Dollar” and “Freight Train” are available on this collection. Eight 15-minute numbers from The Health & Happiness radio series Hank conducted are also included where he performs hits like “Lovesick Blues”, “Lost Highway”, “Mansion On The Hill” and “Tramp On The Street”.

It’s interesting to hear country music’s greatest poet conduct a radio show. The band features Hank, his wife Audrey and The Drifting Cowboys on these rare tracks. Highlights on Disc One include “Wedding Bells Will Never Ring For Me”, a fiddle instrumental “Old Joe Clark”, “I’m A Long Gone Daddy”, “I Want To Love And Live” and “Where The Soul of Man Never Dies”.

“A Mansion On The Hill” stands out as a stellar version. “A Prodigal Son” sways towards the gospel path, and “I Saw The Light” never sounded so soulful. “I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye” will break your heart. When you hear Hank sing, “I just told mama goodbye/Mother’s day has turned to night/Like the flowers in May she withered away” will bring a tear to the eye.

“Fan It”, “Freight Train Blues” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” sounds grainy and yet one understands this is where the legend does indeed begin. On the last disc, Hank discusses his son Hank Jr., and Infantile Paralysis in America followed by Audrey Williams singing “Help Me Understand”. The collection is concluded with a gospel number “When God Dips His Love In My Heart”. The Legend Begins: Rare And Unreleased Recordings of Hank Williams ranks as an essential collection for any Hank fan.

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