“Hank Williams As “Luke The Drifter”” by Luke The Drifter - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1953Album Chart of the Decade: 1950s

TJR says

The sole Luke The Drifter album compiled eight single sides all recorded and released between 1950 and 1952. Biographer Colin Escott noted: “If Hank could be headstrong and willful, a backslider and a reprobate, then Luke the Drifter was compassionate and moralistic, capable of dispensing all the wisdom that Hank Williams ignored.”

The pseudonym was decided upon to appease label concerns that the lucrative jukebox trade would not be happy with his darker message-laden narratives, sometimes spoken in downbeat fashion with the simplest of musical accompaniment. As producer Fred Rose put it: “the last thing they needed was for someone to punch up a Hank Williams record and get a sermon.” Danger Danger: Beware the honky-tonk only zone!

The first side of the album is dynamite. The set opens with “Pictures From Life’s Other Side”, an appeal for compassion and understanding for the downtrodden which recounts two “scenes”: the first that of a degenerate gambler who dies right after staking his dead mother's wedding ring during a card game, his “last earthy treasure”; and the last that of a “heartbroken mother” who drowns herself and her baby by jumping into a river. Goddam! This is followed by a stunning rendition of Bonnie Dodds’ “Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw” which recounts the heroic act of a young lady who is killed while saving a child from a passing car, the same young lady who has been unfairly bad-mouthed recently by the mother of the saved child. Ooft!

Next is “Men With Broken Hearts” of which Hank himself said: “Ain't that the awfulest, morbidest song you ever heard in your life? Don't know how I happen to write that thing, except that somebody that fell, he's the same man as before he fell, ain't he?” Hard to argue with that Hank! His rendition is truly soulful.

I Dreamed About Mama Last Night” addresses the moment everyone dreads – the death of a momma. Hank’s unforgettable recitation strikes a universal chord: “Why sometimes when we'd stay away till one or two or three, It seemed to us that mama heard the turnin' of the key, For always when we'd step aside she'd call and we'd reply, But we were all too young back then to understand the reason why, Until the last one had returned she'd always keep a light, For mama couldn't sleep until she kissed us all goodnight, She had to know that we were safe before she went to rest, She seemed to fear that the world might harm the ones that she loved the best… Then came the night that we were called together round her bed, The children're all with you now the kindly doctor said, And in her eyes the gleam again that old time tender light, That told that she's just been waitin' to know that we were alright, She smiled that old familiar smile and prayed to God to keep, Her children safe from harm throughout the years and then she went to sleep” It'd bring a tear to a glass eye…

In his autobiography Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan summed this album up best: “The Luke the Drifter record, I just about wore out. That's the one where he sings and recites parables, like the Beatitudes. I could listen to the Luke the Drifter record all day and drift away myself, become totally convinced in the goodness of man.”

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:53] 7.4.png Luke The Drifter with instrumental accompaniment - Pictures From Life’s Other Side (Charles E. Baer) Country
A2 [03:12] 7.5.png Luke The Drifter with musical accompaniment - Men With Broken Hearts (Hank Williams) Country
A3 [02:58] 7.0.png Luke The Drifter with instrumental accompaniment - Help Me Understand (Hank Williams) Country
A4 [02:59] 6.4.png Luke The Drifter with musical accompaniment - Too Many Parties And Too Many Pals (Mort Dixon, Billy Rose, Ray Henderson) Country
B1 [03:00] 9.1.png Luke The Drifter with instrumental accompaniment - Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw (Bonnie Dodd) Country
B2 [03:00] 8.5.png Luke The Drifter with instrumental accompaniment - I Dreamed About Mama Last Night (Fred Rose) Country
B3 [03:07] 6.3.png Luke The Drifter with musical accompaniment - The Funeral (Traditional, Hank Williams) Country
B4 [03:00] 5.7.png Luke The Drifter with musical accompaniment - Beyond The Sunset (Blanche Kerr Brock, Virgil P. Brock, Albert Kennedy Rowswell) Country

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