1951, 1952, 1953, Music

Memorial Album (1953) by Hank Williams

I try not to listen to compilations unless I have a really good reason. The reason I try not to listen to them is simply because, especially with “Greatest Hits” compilations, someone other than the artist has decided what is on the record.

But Hank Williams only ever released two LPs during his lifetime and those LPs were not necessarily representative of what made him famous – his singles. Now, I haven’t heard those LPs myself, so I don’t know how this compares, and I don’t know how seminal they are, but this compilation, released two months after his death, certainly helped rectify the lack of hit singles on his two first albums. (It’s also worth noting these singles are from 1951 up to those released around his death, so it’s not as though they were raiding the vaults or anything. Yet.)

This is really traditional country music that sounds from a completely different time. The only amplified instrument on these tracks is a pedal steel guitar, everything else is traditional. So the sound is of a time before the electric guitar changed how people made music.
But this is chock full of hits – basically every one of these songs (or nearly every one) was a deserved country hit in the early ’50s and most of them are so classic you’ve heard them before even though you may not listen to this kind of music. (A few you may not know.) Some of these have become so much part of our culture I didn’t realize where they came from.

So this is a pretty good place to start with traditional country. There may be better Hank Williams compilations for all I know, but it’s hard to fault this one. I just don’t know how it compares to the LPs he made during his life, or if it’s been surpassed by another set. (It likely has, given how short this one is, at just over half an hour.)

But I cant’ stress enough how traditional this music is. Country music would change much in even the next 15 years, but even by the late ’50s, rock and roll was starting to make its way into country and even early Johnny Cash sounds like he’s from another time.

So it’s an interesting time capsule.

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