Picks and Pans Review: The Complete Hank Williams

updated 10/19/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/19/1998 01:00AM

Hank Williams (Mercury)

During a brief career that ended with his untimely death at 29 in 1953, Williams all but defined modern country music, fusing R&B with western swing, gospel-influenced country and tale-telling folk music. This 10-CD, 225-track set, commemorating his 75th birthday, amply demonstrates how affecting and influential he was.

Williams's untrained voice was painfully nasal, but his Alabama drawl had a certain charm, and Juilliard only wishes it could teach the catch-yodel that added emotional grace notes to his style. Subject to depression and binge drinking, he crafted a lot of awfully maudlin pop songs, but he was witty enough to write "My hair's still curly and my eyes're still blue/ Why don't you love me like you used to do?" He also created an astonishing array of crossover hits, including "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin' " and "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You"). Apart from a few cuts, this sizable set is musically satisfying and historically fascinating.

Bottom Line: Deserving tribute to Nashville's Gershwin

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