Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. New Tune Tuesday 10.3.11
Hank Williams is cooler than whoever you listen to, let me just get it out there. He probably influenced them too, even if you don't want to admit it, or don't know it. He died too young at age 29, the only guy who could have a worse broken hearted story than you, outdrink you and save your soul...All in one song. With that saying, here we go...
RELEASE OF THE WEEK 10.3.11: 'The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,' various
"Time after time, You've proven untrue,
Leavin' me home to cry over you.
Each time you come back, You say I'm sweetheart,
But how many times dear, have you broken my heart?
Night after night, I've cried after you,
Hopin' and prayin' someday you'll be true,
You took my world and tore it apart,
How many times have you broken my heart?
~How Many Times Have you Broken my Heart?~
History Class: I doubt there's many albums with as long a gestation process as "The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams," finally released today as a twelve album compilation disc. The notebooks are literally thought, notebooks of songs written by Hank Williams, SR that were found in his briefcase upon his death. They were songs that he hadn't recorded, or at least hadn't gotten around to recording when he died in 1953. From what I understand there something like 40-60 songs in these notebooks, most unheard of until now. In the 1960's MGM Records used the idea of making an album from the notebooks as bait to try and bring musical free agent Bob Dylan, a known huge fan of Williams, to sign with them. In the 60's Dylan not only brought big sales from his own albums, but that also meant getting a first chance stab at his songs for their own artists to cover, which was huge business in those days. Ultimately Dylan re-signed with Columbia and the Notebooks stayed dormant, mostly. In the later 60's Williams son, Hank William JR, recorded an album of a few of the songs titled "Songs my Father left Me," but besides that release, the songs have mostly been unheard. In the early 2000's, after the Hank Williams tribute compilation disc "Timeless," which featured Dylan doing "I Can't Get you Off my Mind," won a Grammy, the idea of a Notebooks album surfaced again. This time they were passed onto Dylan with the idea he would personally tackle a 12-song album. He hung onto the songs for around two years before deciding it was too large a tast for one man, and instead opted to do one track himself while spearheading and picking names to do give their shot at a song. I first heard the album had made real headway back in 2006 or so, and over the years since the likes of Jack White and Norah Jones among a few others talked about their work on the album, some even doing live versions of the songs, taking the lyrics and adding their own musical arrangements to the words. It really seemed to be a mysterious album that would never get release, until earlier this year it was finally announced as being officially released...on Dylan's own imprint, Egyptian Records. That's right, Dylan, Mr. Columbia Records, has his own label imprint. How many releases before this record? One, a tribute to another father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers, released the 1990's.
The Album: It would have been easy for them to just shove this album out with a grab bag of some popular contemporary country artists who would lie and call Williams and influence and watch the record sales soar. You know what? That album would have sucked. Instead the focus was on those who are true SINGER/SONGWRITERS, direct descendants of something Williams was one of the true pioneers of. Instead, the country people who do show up on the album, guys like Alan Jackson and Vince Gill and Merle Haggard, these are guys that, love or like, hold truer to the traditions of country music than most, and are songwriters in their own right. Then you have others like Lucinda Williams, Leven Helm, Norah Jones, Dave Rawlings, Jack White, Sheryl Crow, Jakob Dylan and of course his papa, Bob Dylan. There is some country and/or bluegrass influences in some of them, but overall they stand more in the pop vein of singer-songwriters, still influenced by Williams of course. There's the family connection too, Williams granddaughter Holly shows up, with Hank JR in tow. So instead of a narrow minded album that would have just appealed to one type of listener, you have quite an interesting compilation disc.
The themes are familiar for anyone familiar with Williams music, themes of lonesomeness, pain, booze and the Bible all show up. It's appropriately opened up with "You've Been Lonesome, Too" by Alan Jackson, who takes a very Williams-inspired take on both the music and the vocals. Dylan shows himself to be unselfish in leaving some of the better songs to others, and taking a nice, albeit not overly extraordinary song, "The Love that Faded," and adding music reminiscent of his own "Waitin' for You" from the 'Divine Secrets of the ya-ya Sisterhood' soundtrack, and putting out a song of lost love that Williams was known for and Dylan seems to be able to do in his sleep. He adds some nice little twang to his voice with some pedal steel driving the arrangement. It's a minor song, but solid nonetheless in the way it stays so true to Williams recordings.
All in all it's a very respectful release that should have something for everyone. Another favorite for me is "How Many Time have you Broken my Heart?" A bluegrass and coffee house mix with Norah Jones, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch. Levon Helm and his excellent band tackle "You'll Never Again be Mine" in a style that fits both the Band's and Williams. You have Lucinda Williams doing a very Lucinda Williams take on "I'm so Happy I found You," and it works. Jakob Dylan's "Oh, Mama, Come Home," would have fit perfectly on his recent Americana disc, 'Women & Country.' I like Sheryl Crow because she's someone who writes her own material and has a respect for those who come before her, but "Angel Mine" is probably the weakest on the disc. That's not ripping it, because it's a decent track, but at over 3 and a half minutes, it wears out it's welcome a bit. Jack White finally pulls himself out of the douche gutter with his take on "You know that I know," with White throwing a bit of a folk tinge to his voice that recalls some of the White Stripes acoustic numbers. It ends with the only Gospel-tinged number on the disc, "Sermon on the Mount," by Merle Haggard. This tune stands right alongside of some of Williams classic tracks like "I Saw the Light," but while Haggard's performance isn't bad, it will certainly appeal to the country crowd, I couldn't help but wish to hear Hank himself do it.
Overall: The disc is brisk even at 12 songs, but it is a joy, and while there are some songs I enjoyed more than others, it really doesn't really have a stinker on it.
Available on: CD, MP3
Third Man Records will be handling the release of the Vinyl later this month.
Other Notable Releases (10.3.11)
Wow, talk about making your audience wait. After runaway success in 2007, largely off the single "1234," she's finally back with a new record. It's a somewhat quiet, rather introspective disc overall, and her fans should be most pleased. Will anything chart as high as "1234," you ask? Well, probably not, though I can see something like "Bittersweet Melodies" doing okay, but all in all, this isn't a disc that's overtly seeking radio play. And that's a good thing...
Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3
'4 Ed Sullivan Shows starring the Rolling Stones,' DVD
Even if the Stones wussed out a bit with that mean old Mr. Sullivan ("lets spend some TIME together," really?!?) there are still some fantastic performances in this set plus beyond the Stones you get the other artists such as Louis Armstrong, the Muppets and even the commercials from these 4 historic shows.
Available on: DVD
'Beauty Queen Sister,' Indigo Girls
If you're into the older Indigo Girls stuff and those harmony tracks, this one is for you. It's sweeter, yet remains painful, as opposed to their more recent output. I won't lie, I'm not a huge fan and a number of the tracks on here I pretty much hate, but there's some good stuff on this album too. Fans should love it.
Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3, iTunes includes live Bonus Track
'Working in Tennessee,' Merle Haggard
If you were more of a fan of the real country tracks on the afore-mentioned 'Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,' this may be the release of the week for you. Mostly self-written with a couple Johnny Cash covers, it also, for whatever reason, features a new version of Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues" with Willie Nelson. Nothing revolutionary, but it sure beats Shania Twain or Big & Rich...
Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3
'People & Things,' Jack's Mannequin
Not my bag, personally. The music sounds weak and dated to me, and his voice tries to be a bit gravelly and nasally, just a bit, maybe to add a bit of roughness or even toughness to it? Well, it doesn't work. But if you liked the first two Jack's Mannequin albums, well, you should enjoy it. It brings a trilogy full circle, I suppose. Not all trilogies are worth viewing though.
'Guitar Man,' George Benson
'100 Years of the Blues,' 5-disc set, various
This is what I'm talking about. If you have NOTHING on the blues, this set is for you. 4CD's covering a vast variety of blues artists from John Lee Hooker to Muddy Waters to Etta James to Buddy Guy to Johnny Winter to Robert Johnson to the Yardbirds to Stevie Ray Vaughan and beyond. Add to it a 5th disc covering the history of the blues and a nice 126 page book, this is a sweet set. Real music, real blues, really recommended.
'Hawaii Five-O: Original Soundtrack,' Various
Crappy show, good soundtrack. You get the Goo Goo Dolls, Swell Season, Ziggy Marley and an un-released Bob Dylan track: the tropic tasting "Don't ever take yourself Away," an outtake from 1981's 'Shot of Love.'
As always, feel free leave comments or to e-mail me personally at HAWKmaus@gmail.com Spam appreciated.