Top 102 Albums. No 58.
Moanin' the Blues. Hank Williams
"I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song"
After writing up Dustbowl Ballads I found myself moving on to listening to Hank Williams. They are both foundational artists. I was wondering what to include by him, having come to him through songs rather than albums. I possess a number of compilations but none stands out from the rest. I thought I'd give myself two guiding rules - look for an original album released before his death and look for one that included the spectral, haunting Ramblin' Man, a song that, alongside Son House's John the Revelator, seems to be evidence of a strange, parallel universe.
I could only find two albums released before his tragic early death and neither contained Ramblin' Man. Of course I could just put a video of it here in the middle of the post. Voila!
The two albums that Wikipedia lists as predating Williams' tragically early death on January 1st 1952 are Hank Williams Sings and Moanin' the Blues. Sings contains I Saw the Light. The Velvet Underground were only beginning to see it twenty years later. I can't resist posting this version from Youtube with Roy Acuff introducing the song and singing the first verse. Look at Hank's suit when he enters the fray. Class.
Both albums are great but Moanin' the Blues is pretty close to perfect. Williams is to betrayal and loneliness what Joyce is to Dublin in 1904. I don't think a discussion of the greatest songs of the twentieth century could leave out I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.
I can't imagine the world without these songs. They are part of my emotional alphabet and show that simplicity is the most sophisticated of achievements.
Here's a bonus for those who made it down her to the bottom of the post, a cover of Ramblin' Man by Tom Waits that I came across while stumblin' down the backroads of Youtube.