This set is not for the uninitiated, looking for a primer on Hank Williams. This is not a balanced overview of his career (Given it was recorded a couple of years before he died, there were a lot of major songs he had yet to record.), but it does have a dozen of his better-known songs. There are also a lot hymns here, as well as some cowboy songs and mountain ballads. The recordings are all taken from a series of Nashville radio shows sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour Company in 1951.
For serious fans, there is a lot to like. The sound quality is surprisingly good, and Hank seems very much at ease throughout. Perhaps the best stuff is what happens in between the songs, whether it’s Hank talking with the announcer or telling stories. It’s the kind of thing that can make live recordings so special (To intro “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” Hank says, “You’ve heard of pitiful songs. I know this one’s pitiful ‘cuz I wrote it.”). Time Life has also left many of the advertisements for Mother’s Best Cornmeal, which is touted as “twice washed,” “full of food energy,” and “guaranteed for better results and more compliments.” They’re a lot of fun to hear and are an interesting document in themselves.
There’s been so many repackaging of Hank Williams material that’s it’s a little easy to be cynical about any new releases, but this one’s pretty special.