Looking back, the first blog post from Yours Truly on the Bob Dylan/Hank Williams project was on November 16th, 2007. It was one of several more, and now—proving that if you keep the pressure up results will surely one day come—it’s been announced that an album titled The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams will be released on October 4th, 2011. It has been created from unfinished songs that Hank Williams left behind in a briefcase when he departed this Earth in 1953, at the tender but for him weary age of 29, and which same songs were at some point given to Bob Dylan to finish.
When you wait so long for something, there’s a danger in it being anti-climactic. But at this point I’m thinking of this not as the Holy Grail but merely a very pleasant thing to look forward to. Bob himself is just taking on one song. The full track listing according to Amazon is as follows:
1. You’ve Been Lonesome, Too – Alan Jackson
2. The Love That Faded – Bob Dylan
3. How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart? – Norah Jones
4. You Know That I Know – Jack White
5. I’m So Happy I Found You – Lucinda Williams
6. I Hope You Shed a Million Tears – Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell
7. You’re Through Fooling Me – Patty Loveless
8. You’ll Never Again Be Mine – Levon Helm
9. Blue Is My Heart – Holly Williams
10. Oh, Mama, Come Home – Jakob Dylan
11. Angel Mine – Sheryl Crow
12. The Sermon on the Mount – Merle Haggard
Some obviously great names there, some obvious F.O.B.’s (Friends of Bob) and, perhaps most surprisingly, one certifiable S.O.B.: Jakob Dylan. My guess is that this is the first time their names will be beside each other on a piece of vinyl.
Clearly Bob Dylan was in charge of this, and the old “Egyptian Records” imprint that Bob used for his very fine 1997 Jimmie Rodgers tribute is being revived.
Back in that first breathless blog post on the subject I wrote:
In his memoir, “Chronicles,” Bob recounts how, from his hospital bed, Woody Guthrie told him he could have his unfinished lyrics. Then, Dylan very amusingly describes the fateful way in which he failed to get them, trudging across a semi-frozen swamp to Guthrie’s house, scaring Arlo’s babysitter, and departing empty-handed. He was soon to be swept up by the force of his own creativity, and the moment for carrying Woody’s torch simply passed. Those unfinished songs were later given to Billy Bragg and the band Wilco, who put tunes to them and released them on an album in 1998. How ironic, but very sweetly so, if Bob Dylan now has the chance to do this with some unfinished songs of the great Hank Williams.
Well, he personally has only done it with one of the songs. But it was fitting, and not a little generous of him, that he should share the opportunity with some other singers and songwriters who love Hank. I’m not sure who doesn’t love Hank Williams. I would like to think it’s only those who have never heard him.