Hank Williams

Getting a jump on next year’s tributes for the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams, Universal has released this two-CD set that brings together 42 tracks recorded between 1947 and 1952 from the undisputed king of country music and one of the true musical icons in American history.

From his first recorded output, songs like “I Saw The Light’ (1947) and “Move It on Over,” to rare versions of classics ("Moanin’ the Blues” live from the Grand Ole Opry), the songs ring with haunting clarity—having been digitally mastered from original tapes—giving you a fuller sense of what it was like sitting in a ‘50s audience of clapping corn huskers (I should add quality stereos help—Hello Kitty boom box, I’m talking to you).

Although he passed at the tender age of 29, Williams had already scored 34 consecutive country charters, 32 Top Tens with 11 No. 1 singles—most of them covered since by everyone from Elvis and Fats Domino to Ray Charles and Johnny Cash. Although all these songs have been released before, the selection and track order is top notch—you just can’t go wrong with classic tunes and such a high, lonesome prairie voice.

The whole thing comes handsomely packaged with an accompanying 28-page booklet featuring rare photos, an essay and notes. So if you got the money, and the inclination fer some country—this is the gold standard.