Hank Williams - Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

For everything that he was or wasn't Hank Williams sure left a lot of unreleased recordings.  For the first time ever these recordings are available on a 3 disc box set from Time Life.  Is it worth purchasing?

Disc one is exactly what its title claims it its: Hits like you’ve never you’ve never heard them before. And while there’s plenty of studio patter between Williams and his band mates, the songs themselves sound almost exactly like their hit versions. Oh, and what great songs they are! That yodel in Williams’ voice during “Why Don’t You Love Me” is simply a thing of vocal beauty. And the way he calls out his instrumentalists with silly nicknames during “Move It on Over” only adds to the enjoyment of an already extremely enjoyable tune. And make no mistake about it: These are legitimate hits. They include “Cold, Cold Heart”, “Hey, good Lookin’”, “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You” and “Moanin’ the Blues”. ‘Classic songs’ is a phrase thrown around much too loosely these days, but these tunes deserve the description. 

The other two CDs mainly find Williams singing gospel music. Much like many great pop singers, of both today and yesterday, Williams was a conflicted man. On the one hand, he was a sexy honky-tonk star. But on the other hand, he was a sincere Christian that wanted to share good news about Jesus. Yet it must have been hard to reconcile the hard drinking Saturday night star, with the humble Sunday morning gospel singer. The second disc, titled “Southern Harmony”, finds Williams singing gospel songs along with other singers. And it’s hard not to think about what Jesus did for mankind when Williams sings “How Can You Refuse Him Now”. 

Disc three is a selection of Williams’ songs in his alternate role as Luke the Drifter. And while the musical songs are just fine, tracks where Williams is recorded doing spoken word alone, as on “Everything’s Okay”, start to drag after a while. Listening to these recordings make one want to hear that golden throat of his, instead.  

Although nobody would suggest trading in your favorite Williams recordings for these unreleased tracks, you would by no means be gypped if these were the only remnants of the man’s career you had. Williams, even to this day, is deceptively amazing. He sang simple songs, with simple arrangements, but there is nevertheless great depth to what he recorded. Maybe it was his voice. Perhaps it was how he could distill complicated relationships – whether romantic or spiritual – into words that the common man could easily understand. Whatever the explanation, like a rural magician, you’ll likely find yourself asking, ‘How did he do that?’ after listening to this fine collection. You might also wonder if he ever recorded anything substandard. I’ll wager he never did, and this three-CD set supports such a belief.