Title - I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel, et al
Artist - Hank Williams
For those unaware, in 1951, Hank Williams was reigning as the king of country music. A popular star of the Grand Ole Opry, he was in the midst of an amazing, if short-lived, stretch of hit songs.
That year he had his own 15-minute radio show that was sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour. Broadcast from 7:15 -7:30 a.m. on the powerhouse Nashville radio station WSM, this program captured Hank at the apex of his career.
Because early-morning programs typically concluded with a hymn, it gave the country music star the chance to share his long-life love for religious songs.
I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings contains rare performances of 40 gospel songs culled from these radio shows; many of which he never officially recorded.
On March 11th, 2022, BMG is releasing this specially assembled collection as a two-CD digipak and a three-LP triple-gatefold album pressed on 140g vinyl, marking the first time these recordings have been issued on vinyl.
Produced by Cheryl Pawelski, the compilation features new liner notes penned by Hank Williams biographer Colin Escott while the recordings were restored and mastered by Michael Graves.
This esteemed trio all won Grammys for their earlier work on the Hank Williams archival project, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950.
1. I Am Bound for the Promised Land
2. I’ll Fly Away (Acetate Version 21)
3. Thirty Pieces of Silver
4. The Old Country Church
5. Jesus Died for Me
6. Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine
7. Searching for a Soldier’s Grave
8. Something Got Hold of Me [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys]
9. When God Dips His Love in My Heart
10. Lord Build Me a Cabin
11. Drifting Too Far from the Shore
12. That Beautiful Home
13. I’m Gonna Sing (Acetate Version 157)
14. Lonely Tombs (Oh Those Tombs) [Acetate Version 7]
15. How Can You Refuse Him
16. Where He Leads Me
17. At the Cross
18. The Blind Child’s Prayer
19. I Saw the Light (Acetate Version 3)
20. Farther Along
The first CD opens on one of the first hymns Williams ever learnt, I Am Bound for the Promised Land and the fiddle-imbued I’ll Fly Away (Acetate Version 21) and backs those up seamlessly with a song taken direct from the bible, Thirty Pieces of Silver, the quietly free flowing The Old Country Church, a beautifully charmed Jesus Died for Me, the healing salve to the mind, heart and soul of Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine and then brings us his prayer for the troops within Searching for a Soldier’s Grave, the gracious hymn Something Got Hold of Me [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys] and then the truly beautiful When God Dips His Love in My Heart.
Next up is the oft requested hymn Lord Build Me a Cabin and the haunting Drifting Too Far from the Shore and they themselves are backed up by one of the finest hymns Williams had ever heard, That Beautiful Home, when I get to Glory I’m Gonna Sing (Acetate Version 157), one of the prettiest tunes ever written (according to Williams himself) Lonely Tombs (Oh Those Tombs) [Acetate Version 7], the sweetness of How Can You Refuse Him, and then comes the adamant Where He Leads Me, the jubilant At the Cross, this disc rounding out on the softly sung The Blind Child’s Prayer, the fiddle-driven I Saw the Light (Acetate Version 3), coming to a close on the twanging melodies of Farther Along.
CD 2 [2019 Remaster]
1. Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet (Acetate Version 14)
2. I’ll Have a New Life (Acetate Version 29)
3. Precious Lord Take My Hand
4. I Heard My Mother Praying for Me (Acetate Version 4) [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys]
5. Steal Away / The Funeral
6. From Jerusalem to Jericho
7. I’ve Got a One-Way Ticket to the Sky
8. I Dreamed That the Great Judgement Morning
9. Softly and Tenderly
10. Where the Soul Never Dies
11. When the Fire Comes Down from Heaven
12. I Dreamed About Mama Last Night (Acetate Version 24)
13. The Prodigal Son
14. Jesus Remembered Me [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys]
15. Dust on the Bible
16. Dear Brother (Acetate Version 5) [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys]
17. The Pale Horse and His Rider
18. I Heard My Savior Calling Me (Acetate Version 147)
19. Wait for the Light to Shine (Acetate Version 24)
20. When the Saints Go Marching In
The second disc opens on another pretty hymn Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet (Acetate Version 14) and the sacred song I’ll Have a New Life (Acetate Version 29) and follows those up nicely with the heartfelt message within Precious Lord Take My Hand, a song that held the record for the most number of requests received I Heard My Mother Praying for Me (Acetate Version 4) [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys], the harmonious Steal Away / The Funeral, the Biblical storytelling of From Jerusalem to Jericho, and then we get the new hallelujah song I’ve Got a One-Way Ticket to the Sky, the subtle preaching found within I Dreamed That the Great Judgement Morning and the amazingly graceful Softly and Tenderly.
Along next is one of my own personal favorites from this wondrous new collection, the key of eight Where the Soul Never Dies which is itself followed by the Good Book-imbibed When the Fire Comes Down from Heaven, a beautiful track written by Fred Rose I Dreamed About Mama Last Night (Acetate Version 24), the heartfelt and sincere The Prodigal Son, the upbeat Jesus Remembered Me [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys], the buoyant, simple message within Dust on the Bible, then we get the aching Dear Brother (Acetate Version 5) [Hank Williams, Audrey Williams & the Drifting Cowboys], before this second disc rounds out on the righteous The Pale Horse and His Rider, the twangling guitar jangle of Heard My Savior Calling Me (Acetate Version 147), the delightfully ambient musing of Wait for the Light to Shine (Acetate Version 24) and comes to a most righteous close on the much beloved classic When the Saints Go Marching In.
Gospel music was always part of Hank Williams’ life. He grew up listening to hymns in church, which had a profound impact on him. As Escott elaborates in his liner notes, the spirituals he heard delivered lessons on songwriting to young Hank, and his love of this music stayed with him after he became a musician. In fact, in 1950, he assumed the alter ego Luke the Drifter as an outlet for his religious-themed material.
I’m Gonna Sing reveals the impressive depth of Williams’ gospel music knowledge. The 40 songs, as the liner notes detail, span several centuries. Tracks like “At the Cross” and “I Am Bound for the Promised Land” trace back to the 1700s, while “From Jerusalem to Jericho,” “Lonely Tombs” (later covered by Dylan) and “Softly and Tenderly” (covered by Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Alan Jackson) come from the 19th century.
Many selections, however, are more contemporary numbers, from the well-known (“When the Saints Go Marching In” and “I’ll Fly Away”) to the rather obscure (“Something Got Hold of Me”).
Several songs, such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “When God Dips His Love in My Heart,” are hymns that originated in the Black church. Others, like “The Prodigal Son,” “I Dreamed About Mom Last Night,” and “Wait for the Light to Shine,” were penned by his producer and music publisher, Fred Rose, himself a hall of fame songwriter.
Hank wrote gospel songs too; the compilation’s title track is one as are “Jesus Died for Me,” “How Can You Refuse Him Now,” and the classic “I Saw the Light” as well as two tunes — “Jesus Remembered Me” and “Dear Brother” — he performed with his then-wife Audrey.
The Mother’s Best radio show recordings have their own intriguing history. They come from the acetate discs that Hank pre-recorded to be episodes when he was on tour and couldn’t be in the WSM studio. In the 1970s, the radio station discarded the acetates, but they were rescued from the dustbin, and from destruction.
After Hank’s daughter, Jett Williams, finally gained the rights to the discs, the complete Mother’s Best recordings were released in 2011 as a mammoth 15-CD box set that received a Best Historical Album Grammy nomination.
There have been a couple subsequent releases drawn from those recordings (2019’s Pictures From Life’s Other Side and 2020’s Only Mother’s Best); however, I’m Gonna Sing is the first to focus solely on Hank’s gospel songs from the Mother’s Best shows.
Hank Williams experienced incredible highs and incredible lows during 1951. He racked up six Top Five songs, including future standards “Cold, Cold Heart” and “Hey Good Lookin’.” He was part of the star-studded Hadacol tour along with Bob Hope, Minnie Pearl, Milton Berle, and Jack Benny as well as making his first national TV appearance on The Perry Como Show.
That year also saw him hospitalized due to his alcoholism, injured in a hunting accident, and having spinal fusion surgery. He had two more #1 country hits (“Jambalaya” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”) in 1952, but Hank slipped further into alcohol and drug abuse, got fired from the Grand Ole Opry, and died early on January 1, 1953 from a heart attack.
I’m Gonna Sing, however, offers a fascinating musical snapshot of Hank Williams at the top of his game, with the gospel songs suggesting the troubled road that he had traveled and still lay ahead for him.
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