Sometimes we forget how fundamental country music is to today's pop music. The blend of country and blues helped spawn rock 'n' roll and lives on in new releases from the Hank Williams dynasty and Charle Daniels.
- HANK WILLIAMS SR. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 as an early rock influence. And it's easy to see why. "Move It on Over" was, for example, the inspiration for Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock."But what do you think about revamping and updating that and other classic Hank Sr. songs? Would it make a difference if the revampers were none other than Hank Jr. and Hank III, the latter making his recording debut on "Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts"?
Thanks to digital mixing and cleanup, the living Hankses are able to sing harmonies, and form a trio with, the long tall daddy (and grandpa) of early country music.
"Move It on Over," the prophetic "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" and "Long Gone Daddy" are redone with a freshness that's loyal to the original versions.
In an ironic family reunion - all of the Williamses were raised in broken homes - the trio join Miss Audrey Williams (mama and grandma) in a sing-along, "Where the Soul of Man Never Dies."
Hank Sr., who would have turned 73 this year, and Hank Jr. sing a duet on "Moanin' the Blues," while Hank III harmonizes with his daddy on "Never Again (Will I Knock on Your Door)" and "Hand Me Down," the only song written by the younger Williams.
Though Hank Jr., 47, has done this type of work before, on "Father and Son" in 1965 and "Songs My Father Left Me" in 1969, this reworking really catches the ear.
Hank III, 23, even adds his own nod to his granddad with "'Neath a Cold Grey Tomb of Stone." And on a close listen, it's eerie how much the youngest Hank sounds (and even looks) like his restless grandfather.
- CHARLIE DANIELS beat the devil once in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," back in 1979. In round two, he's giving the evil one a good kick in the pants with a gospel album, "Steel Witness."
Don't be fooled; the music isn't any more tame than the biting commentary of "In America" and "Still in Saigon." The words are just touched with the spirit.
"It's Happening Now," the opening cut, reiterates the Bible's prophecies of wars, uprisings and false messiahs. There's also a church-choir, honky-tonk working of "Somebody Was Prayin' for Me," featuring the Fairfield Four, and the foreboding "Tribulation."
Daniels and Dale Rossington - wife of Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame - sing a duet called "Heart of My Heart," and the album closes, fittingly, with an account of the Second Coming, "A Day In the Life," which could have been covered by Elvis Presley during his gospel era.
RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.