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When Tragedy Struck

Hank Snow

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Album Review

When Tragedy Struck was a concept album built around songs of sorrow — life's devastating blows, including abandonment ("Nobody's Child"), the death of children ("Put My Little Shoes Away," "Don't Make Me Go to Bed and I'll Be Good"), and the death of a pet ("Old Shep," "Little Buddy"), appear throughout the 11 songs here. That might make the album seem hopelessly downbeat — and to be sure, there is a dark and serious tone to it — but to call this a one-note album would be a mistake, and under-estimate the musical talent involved. The variation of sounds here, ranging from ballads to waltzes — and ending with a jaunty rendition of "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail" — provides more than enough interest to transcend the seeming limitations of mood. And what the differences in sound (and some virtuoso playing, especially on the guitars) don't overcome, the sincerity of Snow's performances do. Indeed, few singers ever succeeded in making heartbreak so alluring within a country-pop context, as Snow gives voice to regret and sadness with a depth that can pull even the most jaded and cynical listener inside — at the risk of engaging in stereotypes that are out-of-fashion, country people lived with the kinds of tragedies depicted here, but even jaded city people can resonate to Snow's portrayal of the emotions behind them here. The production by Chet Atkins, which includes gospel-style organ but also a healthy mix of guitars, is slick in the best mid-'50s Nashville countrypolitan style, but never loses sight of the roots of country and gospel. One of Snow's strongest albums — and his earliest album to remain in print in the 21st century (as of 2012) — When Tragedy Struck still carries a lot of power more than a half-century after its release.

Customer Reviews

Mr Nice Guy

Yes this is a great Album By A Man Who Could Sing About Anythink I Had The Pleasure Of Shaking His Hand After The Show In Southapton And Having My Ticket Singed By Him, truly a Great Singer. By Jc !1943

Biography

Born: 09 May 1914 in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, Canada

Genre: Country

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Canada's greatest contribution to country music, Hank Snow was famous for his "traveling" songs. It's no wonder. At age 12 he ran away from his Nova Scotia home and joined the Merchant Marines, working as a cabin boy and laborer for four years. Once back on shore, he listened to Jimmie Rodgers records and started playing in public, building up a following in Halifax. His original nickname, the Yodelling Ranger, was modified to the Singing Ranger when his high voice changed to the great baritone that...
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