Various Artists – Hank Williams: The Lost Notebooks

by Chuck Dauphin

If anyone other than Bob Dylan had been spearheading this project, there probably would have been a ton of criticism levied against it. How can you imagine finishing a painting started by Da Vinci? When you look at it that way, I have to even admit that it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

However, somehow it all comes together for the better on this disc. Comprised of compositions started but never finished by Hank Williams in the same Cadillac that he entered into eternity, the lyrics were headed to the dumpster when someone noticed the historical significance of them. A Columbia A&R executive then handed them to Dylan, who got behind this project completing one of the songs, titled “The Love That Faded.”

From there, other artists were invited to do the same, and the results – pretty much down the line – sound amazing. Alan Jackson sounds completely in his element on “You’ve Been Lonesome, Too,” as does Jack White on “You Know That I Know.” Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell sound like writers in a candy store on “I Hope You Shed A Million Tears,” which is an absolute gem. Hank’s granddaughter Holly’s contribution “Blue Is My Heart” also sparkles, along with some incredible harmony from her father, Bocephus himself. When he wants to be, Hank Williams, Jr. is an incredible vocalist.

Other standout cuts are from Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, and Levon Helm, but maybe the track that captures the essence of what Hank’s original vision for the song was could very well be Patty Loveless’s excellent “You’re Through Fooling Me,” which sounds like it could have very well been alongside many of Hank’s biggest classics of the day.

While nobody can claim to be able to read Williams’s mind, I think the artists on this disc hit the mark to the largest extent. The scariest thought about this album is that these compositions were about to be cast on the junk heap. That would have been the greatest tragedy of them all.

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