Hank Williams, Sr. Legend. Truly one of the greatest country western singers of all time. And when I started my project, this is the sort of thing I was after. When I began Audio Odyssey, my intention was to familiarize myself with some new unknowns and lesser-knowns, sure. But to be completely honest, it was to acquaint myself with the legends that I had strenuously avoided my whole life. And why? If so many people have adored a performer for so long, if that performer helped to shape thousands of musicians since his heyday, why avoid it? I don’t have a good answer for you or myself on that one.
But, in the beginning of Audio Odyssey, I went to the library, looked through the stacks of CDs that they had, and I came across a sort of double album. One disc was credited solely to The Man Himself, Hank Williams, Sr. It’s called Jambalaya. The other, credited to Hank Williams and His Drifting Cowboys, is called Lovesick Blues. Now, for someone who loves melancholy music, Lovesick Blues sure is an alluring title. And “His Drifting Cowboys?” Great band name. I mean, great band name. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the music. And the music stands the test of time.
I turn on the radio now, I flip through the channels, frequently landing on talk radio due to the utter lack of inspiration and originality these days. I sound like an old fuddy-duddy. I’m only 25. But it’s true! And then you put a guy like Hank Williams on, and his music just does it. It has it. It. Whatever it is, Hank’s got it. He’s got acoustic guitars, stand-up basses, fiddles, lap steel guitars. It’s true music written from the heart. Frequently, if I don’t really know how to express why I like something, I land on, “Because it’s real music!” and that sort of happened here. But let me try to dig in.
What do I like most about Hank’s music? OK, it’s easy. It’s the steel guitar. I don’t love steel guitar most of the time. But with Hank’s music, I tell you, it really hits the spot. It almost has a Hawaiian feel to it. Imagine that. Hawaiian melancholy. And it works. It works wonders. I actually first listened to these songs on shuffle with a bunch of new music that I had borrowed from the library, including The Legends of Hawaiian Steel Guitar. Frequently during that first listen, I would find myself thinking that Hank’s music was a part of the Hawaiian compilation. And I do mean that in the best way possible. I don’t love steel guitar most of the time. But Hawaiian steel guitar, with the exception of Mele Kalikimaka, always puts a smile on my face. Always.
Hank does the same, in a way. He puts a smile on my face and a tear in my beer. He pulls at a lot of emotions with his music. The man had a talent that few have ever possessed. I know a lot of people think country music and just immediately turn their noses up at it. I don’t necessarily blame you if you’re one of those people. Honestly, most country music is total crap. But, on the other hand, so is most hip hop. And most pop. And most rock. So really, the only problem for most people is that they haven’t heard good country western music. And maybe this still won’t be your cup of tea. But I really do think that if you’re going to listen to country, you really need to be listening to Hank Williams Sr. And if you’re going to claim to be a music fan, you really need to give Hank Williams Sr a shot. He’s damn good, and he’s earned at least a shot.
I want to bring something up that I haven’t mentioned in a long time. It’s a band. The Gaslight Anthem. I reviewed them for my second ever Audio Odyssey review. I reviewed the album The ’59 Sound. I’ve been saying this to my friends ever since, and I want to repeat it to anyone who might stumble across this article: Listen to this album. Seriously. It’s such a great band, and this is an indecently good album. It’s too good. It’s phenomenal, and you should definitely be listening to it. On that note, I’m going to devote next week’s article to The Gaslight Anthem’s follow-up to The ’59 Sound, titled American Slang.