Sunday, October 9, 2011

Songs for the New Depression

Finally got around to scoring a copy of Del Shannon's 1964 country album Del Shannon Sings Hank Williams, which I've been curious about for years.

As you can hear from that version of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," it's remarkably authentic for a rock guy. In fact, it's easily as accomplished as anything that was done four or five years later during the initial country-rock boom, and I include the sainted Byrds and Gram Parsons in that assessment. Shannon, of course, came to his love of the genre honestly; country was the first music he listened to as a kid and the first that he played semi-professionally.

That said, you can also hear that the above version lacks the profound ache of Hank's original, but of course that can be said of just about every cover of the song by anybody.

I should also add that "Let's Dance," the final track on Shannon's gorgeous 1991 Rock On album -- recorded in 1990, just prior to its auteur blowing his brains out with a .22 caliber rifle -- has that haunted Hank vibe in spades.

On first encounter, it seems to be an upbeat country/zydeco hybrid, a party song. Listen to it again, however, and you can't miss a desperation behind the music that's almost scary. And Shannon's vocal is, unmistakably. the work of a guy with a hellhound on his trail.