My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Hank Williams – ‘Living Proof’

living proofBy 1974 Hank Jr was a mature vocalist but not a consistent hitmaker, with 1972’s ‘Eleven Roses’ remaining his sole #1 hit. Produced by MGM executive Jim Vienneau, Living Proof (often billed as featuring its big hit ‘I’ll Think Of Something’) showcases Hank Williams Jr at his traditional country best, before his change in direction.

The title track, ‘I’ll Think Of Something’, became familiar to a later generation of fans when it was covered by 90s star Mark Chesnutt who took the Bill Foster/Jerry Rice tune to the top of the charts in 1992. It was not quite such a big hit for Hank Jr, whose cut peaked at #7. I must confess that I prefer Chesnutt’s version, but Hank Jr’s original, swathed in strings, is still a fine recording with an emotional vocal and Hank trying out the bottom reaches of his voice.

The self-penned follow up ‘Angels Are Hard To Find’ reached the top 20. The earnest vocal works well and it’s a decent song the artist was to revisit later in his career.

He had not yet shaken off his father’s legacy altogether, and the album includes a very nice cover of ‘I Just Don’t Like This Kind Of Living’ treated very much like the original. There’s a certain uneasy frisson hearing Hank Jr singing a song his father wrote about his rocky marriage to his mother, though perhaps not as much as with the posthumous duet of the song recorded a decade earlier, but it is an excellent performance of a great song. He draws equally effectively on another country legend of his father’s generation with Lefty Frizzell’s ‘Confused’, with Hank Jr’s vocal inflections strongly influenced by Frizzell’s. (The song was the B-side of Frizzell’s 1965 hit ‘She’s Gone, Gone, Gone’.)

The excellent ‘Getting Over You’ should have been a single, as it is an outstanding song about a man whose heart breaks so badly he ends up committing suicide:

I sold my car to buy more wine
I hocked my watch
I’ve lost all track of time
Days with you went by so fast
Now I’m tryin’ to relive the past
You don’t know what I’ve been through
Getting over you

I’ve tried to love other women
But I can’t
You’ve really made a mess
Out of what used to be a man
I thought I’d drowned the fire in others
But you’re still my only lover
You don’t know what I’ve been through
Getting over you

I got some pills from a old doctor friend
The bottle said one every 12 hours for pain
But this pain I feel ain’t small
That’s why I took them one and all
It was something I had to do
To get over you

‘She Was Just Something To Do’ is an excellent cheating song, although the excuse may not have gone down too well the protagonist’s wife.

‘How Long Will You Keep Coming Back to Me’ is a country ballad written by Lamar Morris and Ronnie Hughes, and is pretty good. ‘Before You Fell Out Of Love With Me’ adopts the Nashville Sound in its arrangement, but again is a good song underneath, sung well. ‘Where She Left Off’ is another excellent heartbreak song with a string arrangement and a powerful vocal.

‘All I Had to Do’ is an easy-listening style sophisticated ballad with a downbeat lyric about heartbreak and a highly orchestrated backing.

This album may not appeal to fans of Hank Jr’s rock influenced material, and certain elements of the production have dated, but it remains an excellent record.

Grade: A

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One response to “Album Review: Hank Williams – ‘Living Proof’

  1. Paul W Dennis January 24, 2016 at 10:03 am

    This is one of my favorite early Hank Jr. albums. Strangely enough, the song “Living Proof” – the song with that title will not appear until Hank’s last MGM album. I liked Mark Chesnut’s version of “I’ll Think Of Something” but I much prefer the original. Say what you will about the early 1970s production but those people were making MUSIC, rather than the NOISE that often passes for music today.

    Hank has not wanted to completely shake off his father’s legacy, nor should he, as he continued to record those songs. Not every post-MGM album featured Hank Sr.’s songs, but many did (sometimes as ‘vocal event’ songs such as “Mind Your Own Business” on MONTANA CAFE) and other songs were about Hank Sr. or referenced him is some way (“Tee-Tot’s Song”).

    It is hard to conceive of a recording artist with a really famous parent who has succeeded (or exceeded) the success of the parent. Other than Hank Jr., The only ones I can think of is pop/jazz singer Jack Jones whose father Alan Jones was a big star in the 1930s and 1940s and rock and roll singer Ricky (or Rick) Nelson whose father Ozzie had considerable success as a big band leader and television star . Yes, I know Lorrie Morgan had success equal to George Morgan (but he was a second or third tier star), and yes, Liza Minnelli (Judy Garland), Roseann Cash (Johnny Cash), Pam Tillis (Mel Tillis), Carlene Carter (Carl Smith & June Carter), Debbie Boone (Pat Boone) had their moments in the sun, but Hank Junior had sustained success for thirty years and produced a ton of good music. Of all of Junior’s original MGM albums (not counting greatest hits collections and an instrumental album), the only ones I didn’t like was the last one (HANK WILLIAMS JR. AND FRIENDS) and the goofy duet album with Connie Francis. Twenty-Seven out of Twenty-Nine is a pretty good ratio. Only Haggard, Frizzell and Cash are in that same ballpark for me

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