I was round my grandparent’s house yesterday and I mentioned about Etta James passing away (I told my Mum and Dad Friday night but I didn’t get much reaction) so we were talking about her, and then I told my Grandma that Hank Williams died on our birthday which she did not know. My Grandad then pulled out a mass of country cd’s and said I could borrow as many as I wanted. I also borrowed a Tom Jones cd but that’s not really relevant to this post. I’m always met with surprise when I tell people (especially for some reason people around my Dad’s age) that I love country music, and I suppose I’ve never really thought about why I like it, until now.
Hank Williams was recommended to me when I was about 18 and I was left in awe by his lyrics. I’d gotten into Elvis a bit earlier, and some of his stuff verges on country but it all had a rock n’ roll edge, Hank Williams was pure country. I dabbled a bit after that, heard random songs here and there, got into Johnny Cash and some other people but Hank Williams has always remained my favourite.
Country songs have a reputation of being about a lonely alcoholic who’s been left by the love of their life with all their hopes and dreams passing them by. It seems that a lot of people see this as a bad thing, and I’m not sure why. I can’t think of any other style of music that lends itself so naturally to encapsulating the glorious pain of life. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s so (and I don’t mean this in a demeaning way) uncomplicated – all you really need is one man and his guitar revealing his tormented soul.
I really like songs and poetry which reach deep into the dark recesses of the soul and drag out all the anger and bitterness, shame and regret and that’s what country music is all about. Hank Williams was a master at taking a single emotion and stretching it to squeeze every drop of tragedy out. That’s what I aim for with my poetry.