Hank Williams Undubbed
Vince Discusses Five of His Favorite “Undubbed” Hank Williams Songs
It may seem surprising, but for some reason I had never really taken the time to listen to Hank Williams. I knew his hits and thought they were good, if unremarkable. I always preferred Jimmie Rodgers, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. I never understood what distinguished Hank. However, the past few weeks I have dug deep into the Hank Williams back catalog, and I must say, I now understand his genius. His mythic stature is well-earned. His greatest songs have aged remarkably well, their potency undiluted by the passage of time. I’ve been particularly struck by the “undubbed” versions of his songs, which have been released on several box-sets and compilations. These undubbed versions comprise the basic track absent of added parts, voices, instruments etc. Here are some of my favorite undubbed Hank tunes.
1. “Weary Blues From Waitin” – This is my favorite Hank Williams song. It’s actually probably one of the greatest country songs I’ve ever heard. It’s crushing, heartfelt, and the vocals will raise the hair on the back of your neck. Williams is laying into this ballad with everything he’s got. It almost sounds like its just going to crack apart as he sings, “through tears I watch young lovers as they go strolling by. All the things might have been. God forgive me if I cry.”
2. “First Year Blues” – Hank’s songs were often devastating in their depictions of heartbreak, suffering, alcoholism, etc. This one, however, sees Hank with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It documents the first-person story of the hardships of the first year of a marriage. Not exactly a progressive commentary on male-female relations, it nonetheless sees Williams at his half-serious best.
3. “The Angel of Death” – This one certainly isn’t lighthearted, unless confrontations with the “angel of death” put you in a joyous mood. That said, Williams deliberate vocal phrasing and his methodical strumming are actually pretty comforting.
4. “We Live in Two Different Worlds” – This is a pretty bitter one. A girl has done Hank wrong, and from his perspective it’s most definitely all her fault. His heart is true, while hers is deceptive, fickle, etc. In spite of all this, he still seems willing to take her back in the song’s closing lines.
5. “I’m Going Home” – Hank is having fun on this one. It’s a travelogue told in third-person of a rambling woman who moves all across the country by train. Her preference is for the California Zephyr, the Union Pacific’s Queen.
Written by Vince Meserko. Tune into Hickory Wind every Monday from 8-10pm on 90.7fm KJHK.