Like 1999's tribute to Gram Parsons, Return of the Grievous Angel, this successful collection revives the tired "tribute" concept and applies it in homage to a key figure in country music. Interpreting songs from across Hank Williams's short and troubled career, a range of high-profile artists use different approaches with equally gratifying results. Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, and Hank Williams III play familiar songs with traditional arrangements (Ms. Crow's yodel is an eye opener); Beck, Mark Knopfler, and Keb' Mo' stay closer to their own idioms. Keith Richards's reedy vocal makes "You Win Again" all his own, and Bob Dylan, who has only rarely lent his services to these sorts of projects, leads his touring band through a blues shuffle on "I Can't Get You Off of My Mind." The estimable Lost Highway label has assembled an illustrious cast to sing the praises of the artist who inspired its name, and in doing so it has created a far better testament to its musical mindset than can ever be captured in the term Americana.
The solo guitar arrangements of these timeless classics are fun to play and will build your fingerpicking skills, expand your freeboard knowledge and show you some really cool licks! You can choose how complicated you want your arrangements to get. Hank Williams' tunes are simple enough for easy strumming and perfect for more advanced alternate-thumb Travis-style picking, so there's something here for everyone. Toby performs each song, then uses it as a jumping off place to explore a variety of exciting guitar moves.
Honky Tonk Blues is an expanded director's cut of an American Masters television special about Hank Williams, and every minute of it illuminates Williams's importance as a seminal artist and American archetype. Produced with an understated fascination for the country legend's gifts and demons that shortened his career, played havoc with his marriages, and led to a haunting death at 29, Honky Tonk Blues builds a seamless profile from rare footage and rich interviews with (among others) Rick Bragg, Big Bill Lister (Williams's longtime opening act), Hank Williams Jr., and members of Williams's backup band, the Drifting Cowboys. Williams's story, including his mentorship in the blues by Rufus "Tee Tot" Payne, childhood loneliness, and emergence as a whole-cloth singer-songwriter "who taught people it's okay to bear your soul in everyday language," is thoroughly compelling and resonates with many American originals (e.g., Kurt Cobain) who followed him. An outstanding documentary.
Anyone hoping that Hank Williams III's "Hellbilly" metal band Assjack would finally make it onto one of his albums is still out of luck, but Hank III's third solo effort Straight to Hell comes close to getting their no-quarter spirit onto plastic, if not their sound. Taking the no-frills hard-country sound of 2002's Lovesick, Broke & Driftin' as a starting point, Straight to Hell pumps a good bit more darkness into the mix; mostly recorded at home on a digital portastudio, Straight to Hell begins with a sample of the Louvin Brothers' "Satan Is Real" interrupted by a burst of demonic laughter, which then segues into the title tune, a testimony to a life of cheap thrills and dangerous living that sounds like a classic string band rounding the corners at 90-miles-an-hour with empty bottles of bourbon propping open the windows….