Hank Williams’ “Lost Concerts” Reveal The Real Hank
For years a feud between Hank Williams Jr. and his half-sister Jett kept the legacy recordings of Hank Williams vaulted from the public ear, but a truce in recent years has unlocked a treasure trove of legendary content, stewarded to the public by Time Life in a slow but steady trickle. The Lost Concerts constitutes the last of the legacy Hank recordings, at least for now, and represent either the bottom of the barrel, or finally getting to the good stuff, depending on your perspective.
The listener must go into this collection of recordings understanding there will be quality issues, and just what an exceptional thing it was to get a live bootleg of a concert from the early 50’s. The Lost Concerts material comes from a concert in Niagara Falls, NY on May 4th, 1952, and another in Sunset Park, Pennsylvania on July 13th, 1952. The collection ends with an interview with Mack Sanders at KFBI in Wichita, Kansas from September 14, 1951.
The Lost Concerts includes live versions of some of Hank Williams’ biggest hits, including “Hey, Good Lookin'”, “Cold, Cold Heart” and “Lovesick Blues”, and the only known recording of “Are You Walkin’ and A-Talkin’ For The Lord”. But the most rewarding thing Hank Williams fans will walk away with from this collection is a more intimate understanding of the man through the introductions and stage banter that is captured with such breadth in these recordings. Never before has Hank been brought to life in such a real, cognitive way, making this project a provocative, essential listen for the serious Hank Williams fan.
The album starts off with an extended 7-minute take of Hank Williams talking, cracking jokes as he introduces his “Drifting Cowboy” band. Between each song is even more spoken word gold, as Hank recites little stories and anecdotes about many of the songs. The ending interview gives an excellent glimpse into Hank’s personality as well. Another asset of The Lost Recordings is how intimately it showcases Hank’s legendary band, with fiddle player Jerry Rivers specifically showcased on renditions of “Orange Blossom Special” and “Fire on the Mountain”.
For people hoping for crisp recordings, you will be disappointed by this release. At times the quality issues could be labeled as “serious”, but one man’s flaws are another man’s ambiance, and you really get the feel while listening to the recordings of training your ear to a patchy radio broadcast during the mid-century. You might even find yourself wanting to adjust a dial before realizing it’s a CD or digital track you’re listening to.
The quality issues will probably keep the more common tracks on this album relegated to being cool, secondary takes you can go back and listen to. The gems are “Are You Walkin’ and A-Talkin’ For The Lord”, and my favorite, the rendition of the Luke The Drifter poem, “The Funeral”, capturing not only Hank’s masterful command of the English language in the colloquial setting, but his ability to deliver not just music, but words with such command.
For a man known as a musician, his skills at oration are astounding. His comedic timing is perfect. Hank Williams commands a crowd. He’s a charmer, and this characteristic is revealed with brilliant detail in the Lost Concerts. And to have new live versions of the songs that have become such standards of American music that they are engrained in the very fabric of our culture is not bad either.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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October 24, 2012 @ 12:45 pm
I think this series has been amazing and incredibly well done. I just dont see how anyone could argue about quality considering these are 60 year old concerts and technology just wasnt there when these were recorded. the fact that these even exist is incredible and to be able to sit there and listen to this set (and the previous ones) as my grandfather did as they aired on the radio is worth it.
October 24, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
October 24, 2012 @ 5:53 pm
I hope nobody thinks that I have a particular problem with the audio quality. I just wanted to let the folks know what to expect going in.
October 25, 2012 @ 8:01 am
Nah, I knew what you meant I just dont see how someone actually could complain about it. Just having them able to be listened to is a treasure in itself. It is a shame that this is the last one as these were amazing and I loved the format. I hope they eventually put out the old lp of him at the Grand Ole Opry that came out in the late 60s/early 70s on cd so more can hear it.
October 24, 2012 @ 2:16 pm
Just ordered my copy. This is a true treasure. From the clips the sound is raw and real.
October 24, 2012 @ 7:08 pm
Such a treasure. I like hearing how he dissuaded his audience from buying his recordings due to disagreements with his debtors (label?) and then tells them to buy merch directly from him (at his store in Nashville). Looks like his grandson took his advice during his own trials and tribulations with business dealings.
October 25, 2012 @ 1:54 am
I listened to this in the car when my copy arrived and did find myself reaching for the dial to try and retune. Yes, the quality of the recordings could be seen as a problem to some but to be able to hear Hank chat away between songs in such an unscripted manner makes this release, for me, an absolute treat!
October 25, 2012 @ 4:55 am
Felt like I was right there with Hank, chills and teary eyes…….. Proves that there just might be too much technology and not enough music these days. I know what my dad is getting for Christmas.
Tom the Pollack
October 25, 2012 @ 5:14 am
Great news! Must have it.
October 25, 2012 @ 11:33 am
I was questioning buying this but your review, Triggerman, just sold it to me. Thanks.
October 25, 2012 @ 12:52 pm
By unheard, do you mean that this specific cut of “Are You Walkin”™ and A-Talkin”™ For The Lord” was never released before, or that no version of this song has ever been released before? Because I have an old Hank, Sr. collection that has a version of this song on it…
October 25, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
I’m not sure, I was just parroting what I read on the press release. I have never heard that song before. But I know that a lot of this Time Life material came from stuff many folks have heard in Bootleg form before.
October 26, 2012 @ 4:45 am
This isn’t bootleg. “Are You Walkin”™ and A-Talkin”™ For The Lord” is track 12 of disc 9 on “The Complete Hank Williams” box set that was released in 1998. It also appears on an older compilation that I have.
October 26, 2012 @ 9:33 pm
Yeah, I’m not really sure what they are alluding to when they say this is the “only known recording of this song.” Is it the same version in these other projects? Maybe that’s what they mean, that it is the only known version, not necessarily that it is the first time for it to appear on a Hank Williams release.
I’m going to change the working in the review either way just so it doesn’t cause any confusion. Thanks for the clarification!
October 25, 2012 @ 6:41 pm
This shit has been heavily traded for years…I have a show of him from 41 or 42. There’s plenty of shit out there you just gotta trade around.
October 27, 2012 @ 2:09 pm
My copy came today and I’m in awe.I can picture him and the drifting cowboys
This may make it to my top 10 cds of the year.
October 30, 2012 @ 11:16 am
Why isn’t this available on vinyl? It seems very obvious to me that many collectors would want this on vinyl. It makes no sense to me. I will probably buy the CD anyways, but there is nothing like putting Hank Williams on the record player at the end of a long day & also having the big hard copy of the print or artwork, we like to frame our favorite LP’s.
November 1, 2012 @ 6:48 pm
If there are alot of bootlegs floating around, where are they? And why aren’t they public??
July 16, 2019 @ 7:46 pm
I was on the stage with Hank while the band practiced.. I was six years old and it was at the Capital Theater in Niagara Falls, my father ran the theater. My mom snapped a picture with her brownie camera. I found the picture several years ago. I sent it to Mr. Lou Shriver of WXRL radio and it was supposedly sent to the museum in Nashville.