A.A. Bondy, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams)
John McCauley, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” (Hank Williams)
This one time, I played a Hank Williams III song on my radio show, and forty-five seconds in, had lost all 12 of my dedicated listeners. Every. Single. One. It wasn’t pretty, to say the least. Not that 12 is a whole lot of listeners, but things went from bad to worse in the short span of a few countrified, twangy guitar licks. The WGTB listenership doesn’t have too much respect for honky-tonk country, it seems, but maybe there’s more tolerance for the work of grandaddy the O.G. Hank Williams– an intriguing, legendary character in American lore and the patriarch of a talented country dynasty.
Williams, aka Hank Senior, aka Luke the Drifter, died rather famously in the back of a Cadillac at age 29, inspiring decades of references in literature and music (see the full list of tribute songs here) and securing his spot as a mythical, looming figure in the trajectory of American music (this year’s award of a Pulitzer Prize didn’t hurt, either).
Here’s two appropriate singer-songwriter covers of Williams; I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. The first is a gorgeously sung cover from his Alabama-born brother, A.A. Bondy. Bondy has the range and timbre in his voice to attempt this classic mournful tune, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The second features hard-living, hard-playing, too-young-to-look-so-old Deer Tick frontman John McCauley in a crunchy, ragged rendition of the bittersweet “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive,” which he manages with admirable effort.