Last week it was announced that country singer Jennifer Brantley had released a song the was written by Hank Williams, at least partially written by Hank Williams, and then finished by the request of Hank’s widow Audrey by Glenn Douglas Tubb, nephew of Ernest Tubb and a prolific songwriter. The song is called “Heratbroken, Forsaken, and Alone.” You can read the whole story about how the song was finished and how Brantley was picked as the performer in this MySpace blog and you can hear the song on Jennifer Brantley’s MySpace.
This story reminded me of the still unresolved mystery from this Spring about Bob Dylan acquiring 20-25 unfinished Hank Williams songs and then handing them out to various people, including Jack White to finish them. Since that story broke, there has been no further word about it, no release date, nothing. But since songs flowed from Hank Williams like water from the mountains, it makes you wonder how many other unfinished songs might be out there, owned by the fractured and sometimes contentious Hank Williams estate (Jr. & Jett principally), or by other private parties.
The new Jennifer Brantley song seems to be done in good taste, and since it was authorized by Audrey, the closest link to Hank, I feel a little more comfortable about it. But it seems a little weird, if not wrong, to take unfinished songs and act like you can complete the original thought. These songs, finished or not, are still works of art, and almost hold their own intrigue because they are unfinished. If someone wants to take one and record their own take on it, great, but why not publish them in their original form first, since this is as close to the essence of the song as we can get?
And why are we so quick to interject celebrity in the process? Why not use artists like Wayne Hancock or Hank III, whose writing style is most similar to that of Hank Williams, or at least include them in the process? These are songs that would have been the foundation of what country music is today, by the man who made country music into a popular art form and changed the landscape for American music forever.
What do you think? What should be done with the unfinished Hank Williams songs?