Hank Williams – I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings
This collection’s been available before as Mother’s Best Flour Broadcasts, but these have a far more pristine sound. This 40-song compilation was restored & remastered (2-CD set) by Grammy-Award-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski for Omnivore Creative & engineer Michael Graves. The tunes originate from 1951 when Hank Williams (vocals/rhythm guitar) was already king of country music.
He earned his own 15-minute WSM Nashville radio show sponsored by a flour company. (The same opportunity was afforded in an earlier decade to folk singer Woody Guthrie).
These are rare gospel/hymns & contemporary spirituals from source material — live radio broadcast/acetates. Some were not officially recorded in the studio by Williams. They explore with impressive depth Hank’s gospel music. The acetates were saved from the dumpster in the 1970s.
As for Hank this era produced hit songs & appearances on major network shows but, he was also hospitalized for alcoholism, injured in a hunting accident, had spinal fusion surgery & 2 more hit records. By 1952 he was fired from the Grand Ole Opry, slipped deeper into drugs & alcohol & died early in 1953 from a heart attack.
But here, Williams fires with both barrels with I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings (Drops March 11–BMG/Omnivore). Tunes like “I’ll Fly Away,” (a good take), “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” (with its “On Top of Old Smokey,” melody), “I’m Gonna Sing,” (rollicking), “I Saw The Light,” “Precious Lord Take My Hand,” “Lonely Tombs,” (covered by Bob Dylan), “Soft & Tenderly,” (later covered by Elvis Presley & Johnny Cash), & “When The Saints Come Marching In.”
The charm comes when you can hear Hank speak during introductions, or at the end. The quality of the recordings is fairly good considering their age. It may be more of a document for purists & aficionados than average country listeners. But it’s a historical piece by a legendary performer. It’s a time capsule provided by a musician who interpreted vintage gospel with care & skill. It’s a little crude in spots due to the era’s limited technology but it’s been tweaked quite well for this set.
The musicians: Jerry Rivers (fiddle/harmony vocals), Sammy Pruett (electric guitar), Howard Watts (aka Cedric Rainwater – bass/harmony vocals), Don Helms (steel guitar/harmony vocals). 3 pieces feature Hank’s first wife Audrey Williams & The Drifting Cowboys.
Hank’s weakness was the bottle. But if God can forgive him…so can we. No one will ever know what demons Hank carried with him in his guitar case. But this artist had grit, sincerity, took an expressive route through more serious music & left evidence he was not just a good singer & entertainer but a great artist.
B&W image from Wikipedia & 2nd image courtesy: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History. The double CD is available @ Amazon & many other music sites. https://hankwilliams.lnk.to/imgonna