Just when you thought all the Hank Williams music out there has been released, more surfaces up. This time, the complete collection of Mother’s Best is available for the first time in this excellent 15-disc limited edition set!
There’s so much music and recording here that’s it’s hard to sum it all up in a short review. Hank Williams is legendary and sadly, only lived to be 29 years old. Each morning in 1951, a radio spot for Mother’s Best Flour would play his music that he recorded live or previously recorded when on the road. Obviously he couldn’t record the music every day, how would he be able to tour? When in Nashville, or wherever the radio show was based out of, Hank Williams and his band, The Drifting Cowboys, would record a bunch of shows together. The result of that is all these original recordings, that have miraculously been kept unharmed and restored. The recordings were thought to be lost, and when they re-surfaced, lengthy court battles ensued. Thankfully in the end, The Williams estate got the rights to release the entire set!
Each disc would contain the intro to the radio spots, those old sounding intros like “Mother’s Best flour…” blah blah blah. After awhile, it got a bit old hearing the same intro for the show and Hank’s music. Just when you think he’s gonna play “Lovesick Blues,” you realize it’s just the theme song. It was nice hearing songs you knew before but also ones you haven’t heard Hank sing yet. Hank would give personal anecdotes about certain songs, and you get a glimmer of what he was like in between songs. I particularly didn’t like when his wife (at the time) Audrey would sing. I’m just coming around listening to men sing country songs, so I’m not there yet when it comes to women singing country songs. But just from listening to Hank Williams, you can tell he’s in a class all his own. Hearing stuff from the Drifting Cowboys Jerry Rivers or Don Helms was nice to hear too. The quality of recordings is actually very good and cleaned up very nicely. It sounds just like any other Hank Williams recordings.
Besides the 15 discs, there is also a DVD, a book that talks a little about Hank’s life and talks about each member of the band a little. It’s something nice to read and look through while watching the DVD or listening to these recordings. The DVD features Jett Williams, Hank’s daughter, who went through hell in order to become apart of the Williams estate and this set as well. Hank died right before she was born, then her Grandmother adopted her and then died shortly after as well. Foster home to foster home, so I can imagine how rough that must have been for Jett. But that’s not really the real purpose of the DVD, the purpose was to discuss Hank Williams, Mother’s Best recordings with the original, surviving members of the Drifting Cowboys and one of the engineers of WSM. Sadly, steel guitarist Don Helms passed away in 2008 after this was filmed. But the guys talked about Hank Williams the man, the musician and it’s interesting to hear some stories behind the music.
Did I mention the actual box set is made up like a radio that actually plays! It’s probably one of the more interesting box sets I’ve seen; it’s definitely very cool! Only negative about that is that it takes up a lot of room. But if you got the space and love Hank Williams, this is something to own. You get a sense of Hank Williams personality & humor, what some of the songs are about and just some songs you might not necessarily hear on other albums or sets. I recommend this one!
Bottom Line: A Hank Williams set that any fan should own, if you can afford it.
Notable Tracks: The Blind’s Child Prayer, A Mansion on the Hill, Move It On Over, Cold Cold Heart, Next Sunday Darling Is My Birthday, Where the Old Red River Flows, On Top of Old Smokey, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hey Good Lookin’