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Hank Williams

Live at the Grand Ole Opry

(Mercury)

Hank Williams may well have been the first rock and roll star. Sure, he had neither movie star looks nor the veneer of pop respectability to be a true mass culture behemoth ala Elvis, but his brand of revved-up hillbilly blues, his mythic, reckless life and early death, and his undeniable influence on generations of musicians certainly means that he belongs in the pantheon. Nothing proves this point more than his live performances, where his showmanship and magnetism never fail to shine through on old crackly recordings.


The new two disc set Live at the Grand Ole Opry (Mercury) captures the king of honky tonk in some legendary performances at the old Ryman Auditorium. Of great historic interest is his debut performance at the Opry of the song most often associated with the Williams name, “Lovesick Blues.” Other highlights include a treasure trove of classics (“Cold, Cold Heart” and “Jambalaya” among them), plus a complete recording of a 1950 show, with all the hokey comedy and supporting acts thankfully preserved.

Rating:

Sarah Zupko founded PopMatters, one of the largest independent cultural criticism magazines on the web, back in the Internet's early days of 1999. Zupko is a former Executive Producer for Tribune Media Services, the media syndication arm of the Tribune Company, and a 10-year veteran of Tribune. Her other pursuits involve writing historical fiction and research in the fields of Slavic and German history, as well as general European cultural and intellectual history. Zupko studied musicology, film, and drama at the University of Chicago and media theory at the University of Texas, where she received her M.A.


Tagged as: hank williams
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