Album Review: Hank Williams — The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

Juli Thanki | May 23rd, 2014

hankgardenspotCDcoverUnearthing new Hank Williams music is a discovery akin to finding a heretofore unknown chemical element, which would make  record hunter George Gimarc country music’s Marie Curie.

Gimarc came across several 16-inch discs while on a collecting spree. When he finally got a turntable that could play the discs, he learned they contained four sponsored radio programs that Hank Williams made for a plant nursery in Texas called Naughton Farms. No other discs have been found, and according to biographer Colin Escott, country music historians and scholars weren’t even aware of these programs’ existence, making Gimarc’s find the score of a lifetime.

The detailed liner notes alone – written by Escott – are worth the purchase of the CD, as he delves into Hank’s history as a pitchman (country fans will, of course, be aware of the numerous programs he recorded for Mother’s Best Flour), shares history about the songs included on The Garden Spot Programs, and makes educated guesses as to the identity of the band Williams is using in these recordings, because it’s not his usual backing band, The Drifting Cowboys.

Williams’ most popular song, his version of “Lovesick Blues,” is featured multiple times, as it doubtlessly was on the original series; the rest of the track listing is wide-ranging, including everything from fiddle tunes to traditional songs like “Oh, Susanna” to the proto-rockabilly of “Mind Your Own Business” to the tearjerking, borderline overwrought ballad “At the First Fall of Snow” to the gospel number “Jesus Remembered Me.” If there’s one fault on these recordings, it’s an unknown pedal steel player, who provides licks that are are far more ostentatious than the flawless, comparatively straightforward accompaniment Drifting Cowboy Don Helms would provide on Williams’ iconic recordings. The sound on these restored tracks is great (credit for that goes to audio engineer Michael Graves, who has restored music for labels like Dust-to-Digital) especially considering that these songs were pulled from fragile discs that’d been rattling around for more than half a century.

Williams has been dead for 61 years, twice as long as he was alive. But if Gimarc found the Garden Spot recordings after all this time, there might be more unknown Hank Williams’ music out there, in some dusty attic or back room, waiting to be discovered. Keep digging.

5 Stars

Preview or purchase The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

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