Bob Dylan’s long-gestating project to complete a batch of songs left unfinished by Hank Williams will see the light of day Oct. 4 with the release of “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” a collection of a dozen songs for which Dylan, Merle Haggard, Jack White, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and several other musicians created music for the country giant’s unpublished lyrics.
Dylan invited those with an affinity for Williams' music -- also including his own son, Jakob Dylan, Williams’ granddaughter, Holly, as well as Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson, Levon Helm and Patty Loveless -- to select lyrics from a stockpile that Williams left behind in a leather briefcase when he died in 1953. Some lyrics were finished, others were just fragments or ideas Williams had jotted down.
The album has been assembled in conjunction with the “Family Tradition” exhibition on Williams and his descendants at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, a show that opened in 2008 and will continue through Dec. 31.
Gill and Crowell collaborated on a song titled “I Hope You Shed a Million Tears,” for which Williams’ original steel guitarist, Don Helms, played on what turned out to be one of the final recording sessions before his death in 2008.
“The neat thing for me,” Gill told The Times three years ago, “was how the spirit of it felt like that era of music: Hank and the '50s. We all gathered in a circle, played together and played live with no overdubbing and no fixing. We just gathered 'round and had a pretty big time.”
Haggard sings "The Sermon on the Mount," a song for which he said, "I had to fix a few lines."
The album will be the second release on Dylan’s own label imprint, Egyptian Records. The first was a 1997 tribute to pioneering country singer and songwriter Jimmie Rodgers with recordings of his songs by Dylan, Bono, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, Jerry Garcia and several others.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo (left) of Bob Dylan. Credit: Los Angeles Times.
Photo (right) of Hank Williams. Credit: TNN.