A good friend of ours recently gave us The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams as a gift. Needless to say, it has become our new favorite!
When Hank Williams died, in the back seat of his Cadillac early on New Year’s Day in 1953, the 29-year-old country superstar left behind a legend that still towers over Nashville, as well as a tan leather briefcase. That satchel was filled with gold in the form of four spiral-bound notebooks with hand-written, unrecorded lyrics to 66 songs that had yet to be set to music.
Some were just rhyming couplets, while others were complete from verse to chorus. All had been locked away in his publisher’s vault in Nashville for more than 50 years.
A dozen of those unsung, unknown gems will be released on the CD, “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” featuring the master’s words completed by high-profile collaborators.
Ace country producer Mary Martin originally tapped Bob Dylan as the sole songwriter for the project, but Dylan reportedly turned her down because “the task is just too mighty.’’ Whether intimidated by the challenge or lacking the time to finish songs started by the guy who wrote classics such as “Hey Good Lookin’, ” “I Saw the Light” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Dylan instead chose to record just one song.
“The Love That Faded” is a finely crafted mid-tempo country waltz with Tex-Mex flair. Like many of the record’s numbers, this one had a strong, nearly complete chorus but required work in the verses. With its fiddles and whining pedal steel guitar, the song rings true to Williams’ style as Dylan grunts and growls the words written long ago by Hank: “I tried to forget that we’ll never be/ all that’s left for me are dust and debris.”
Besides finishing that tune, Dylan used his influence to enlist an A-list roster of songwriters from inside and outside the Nashville establishment — including his son Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Jack White, Patty Loveless, Merle Haggard, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams and Hank’s granddaughter Holly Williams.
*Everyone (especially Hank fans) needs to go and get this album now!!!