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Hank World

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Album Review

Hank Thompson is in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and few artists deserve to be there more than he does. Since 1948, he's made the country music charts nearly 80 times. He wrote "The Wild Side of Life" (the tune that Kitty Wells answered with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," thus launching her career) and was the first country artist to record a live album and to be recorded in stereo. He brought Western swing into the '50s with a flourish, using a warm, folky style that was equal parts Bob Wills and Merle Travis, but with a fingerprint all its own.

Hank World stems from recordings Thompson made in the early '50s in a studio set up in his house. These sides were separate from the commercial recordings he was making for Capitol, so there's a wealth of unissued material to delve into, giving a much bigger picture of what the Hank Thompson band would have sounded like in a honky tonk on a hot night back then. This is country with a "western" appended to it. And since there simply isn't enough of the real thing around anymore, these performances are worth their weight in gold. Tracks like "New Deal of Love," "My Front Door Is Open," and "When You're Lovin', You're Livin'" make excellent additions to Thompson's lengthy discography; they're full of inventive wordplay and Thompson's honeyed vocals. And band instrumentals like "Texas Playboy Rag" and "Don't Be That Way" show that his Brazos Valley Boys could tackle everything from Bob Wills to Benny Goodman with a finesse that combined true swing with a tight ensemble sound.

Next to any of Thompson's classic Capitol recordings, this is your next stop — an excellent purchase if you want to amass a collection of the real stuff. You can dance, drink, and cry in your beer to it — all still major prerequisites if the music is to stay true to its roots. And the roots on this set are very deep indeed.


Born: 03 September 1925 in Waco, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Hank Thompson was perhaps the most popular Western swing musician of the '50s and '60s, keeping the style alive with a top-notch band, tremendous showmanship, and a versatility that allowed him to expand his repertoire into romantic ballads and hardcore honky tonk numbers. Born September 3, 1925, in Waco, TX, Henry William Thompson was the son of immigrants from Bohemia and grew up idolizing Western swing and country musicians like Bob Wills, Jimmie Rodgers, and Gene Autry. He began learning harmonica...
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