March 13, 2021 “Honky Tonking” (Hank Williams, 1947) Williams actually recorded and released this song twice in consecutive years, once for the low-budget, no-royalties Sterling Records in 1947 and again for the far more professional MGM Records in January 1948. Sterling didn’t have much distribution, so the MGM recording is the version almost everybody knows … Continue reading Program Notes: Tennessee Walt’s ‘A Year in a Distant Country’
North Babylon Public Library, January 26, 2021 “Setting the Woods on Fire” (Hank Williams, 1952) Written by Fred Rose and Edward G. Nelson, this is a great example of why many people said that Fred Rose could write a Hank Williams song better than anyone, even Williams himself. Since the song first hit the airwaves, … Continue reading Program Notes: Tennessee Walt’s The Other Great American Songbook
Way before I ever got into country music—let alone started to think about performing it—I knew and loved a handful of country songs that I’d come across in one fashion or another. I didn’t necessarily recognize them as country songs, but I’d heard “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” “The Wabash Cannonball” and “Tennessee Waltz,” and … Continue reading Me and ‘Me and Bobby McGee’
“What is it you like so much about the sad songs?” One of the things I enjoy the most about the country shows I’ve been doing for the past few years is the opportunity to talk to audience members afterward. People come up to tell me that they’ve enjoyed the show, to take issue with … Continue reading Sing Me a Sad Song
I did a great show last weekend in Deer Park—and I should emphasize that I did a show I’d done many times before, something like the 25th performance of Tennessee Walt’s The Other Great American Songbook, and did it neither better nor worse than usual; it was the audience that made it great, by being … Continue reading My Favorite Things
Arguments about the best album ever are for suckers, and that’s even truer of arguments about the best country album ever. Setting aside the obvious fact that “best” is as subjective as a word can get, many of country’s greatest artists spent their entire careers in the pre-album era. When Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and … Continue reading The Smartest Guy in the Room
Let’s begin by acknowledging that it’s a profoundly unnecessary question. A good song is a good song, whether you call it country, barbershop or Gregorian chant, and it won’t get any better—or any worse—by any other name. If you like a song, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. Nonetheless, there’s few things Americans like … Continue reading What Is Country Music?