Hank Williams Remembered At Muse And Music Opener
At yesterday’s opener of the Muse and Music series of performances presented by the The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, Christopher Paul Stelling introduced “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry” with “Hank Williams is my favorite songwriter.”
It is hard to deny Williams, dead of an OD at the age of 29 years, stands head and shoulders above country music.
It isn’t just that he brought bluegrass into the mainstream, it is that he was such a master songwriter, Williams was as adept at pop music as he was at ballads. Look at the country legend this way:
1. Williams, the pop star. From “Lovesick Blues” in 1948 to “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”, in 1952, he hit # 1 EIGHT TIMES, and the top 10 TWENTY TIMES. And not just hit, but hit with timeless classics like “Cold Cold Hard” and “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do”. This is country as pop song, and a mutation away from rock and roll: happy songs about sad things.
2. Spirituals. I have a Time/Life compilation of Williams spirituals and the only modern singer who is in the same league is Presley circa “How Great Thou Art”. It has something to do with that voice: the twang dissolves into ache and the ache, the longing for redemption, is what makes him the most human of Christians this side of Gospel.
3. The hardcore ballads. This is where Christopher reminds me most of Williams: Yes, “Lonesome” but couldn’t you just hear Chris singing “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”.?
During the program Christopher mentioned that he writes out of fear. It’s a great place to work out of, and Williams, that tenderness, that sadness in his voice? It sounds as though Williams was writing out of fear as well.
Chris will be performing again for Muse and Music. A date is being set up. And it is unmissable (Wyatt will be reviewing this show for rock nyc)
Next up, Geoffrey Wilson tackles the Civil War, April 14th.