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Billy Cowsill

Jane Hawley
Stewart MacDougall
Tom Phillips
Tim Williams 

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Various Artists

Sorrow begets beauty
Mike Bell 
The Calgary Sun
Sun rating (out of 5 stars)
   Distributed by Festival Distribution

In the cosmic scheme of things, a flood of grief and loss often sends back a  wave of life and understanding. No greater proof of that could have been provided than the new  Calgary-produced collection Sorrow Bound: Hank Williams Re-Examined.

The two-disc collection arrives with a backstory tinged with inspiration as well as infinite sadness. The idea of music lover and Ruby Moon Records label founder Joel Shortt, the sessions for the recordings collected a handful of singer-songwriters and paired  them - in the tradition of old label and studio bands such as Motown’s Funk Brothers and Booker T & the MGs - with a set group of local players to pay tribute to the music and memory of ol' Hank.

Before the project saw the light of day, though, Shortt died and friend and local bluesman Tim Williams - who hand-picked the players and produced the sessions - was left to see it to completion. Of course, before that happened, Billy Cowsill, one of the featured  singer-songwriters in the project, also died - giving an extra sense of sadness  and notoriety to the proceedings.

And while Cowill's appearance on the disc will likely gain a great deal of the attention based on the fact it was his last studio session, it certainly shouldn’t eclipse what he and the other musicians and songwriters accomplished with  Sorrow. It is a once-in-a-lifetime effort, that accomplishes everything it set out to do while giving back so much more.

Disc one features the band - Tim Leacock, Kit Johnson, Thom Moon, Charlie Veilleux and Ron Casat - laying down the music to 15 of William's most beloved numbers, such as I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Jambalaya, Cold, Cold Heart and Hey, Good Lookin'. Alone, without vocal accompaniment, the performances are the warmest, most skilled and soulful you'll be blessed to encounter. The band plays together as if it weren't assembled, but born from the same musical womb, creating a sense of intimacy and familiarity that really is stunning.

As for the voxes lovingly welcomed into the mix, producer Williams, Cowsill, Tom Phillips, Stewart MacDougall and the inimitable Jane Hawley, they become family the second they open their mouths and lend their own distinct and unique takes on the songs.Hawley, especially, adds a dollop of honey to I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry and Take These Chains From My Heart, which makes you weep at the bittersweetness.

The second disc allows the vocalists to bring in their own Hank-inspired material and have it treated the same way - with the exact same results. There are nothing but highlights amongst the 15 originals - Phillips' remarkable Wherever There's A Party, MacDougall's clear and cloudless Wrong Side of the Hill, Williams' easy For Loving You, Cowsill's breezy Hotter Than Fire and the closing heartbreaker It's Over Now.

Sorrow Bound isn't just a tribute to Hank Williams and an interesting story - it's an 
 astounding testament to the power and spirit of music when it's in the hands of  those who live and, yes, sometimes die for it. 


Disc 1: Songs Of Hank Williams:

1. You Win Again - performed by: Billy Cowsill
2. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - performed by: Jane Hawley
3. Long Gone Lonesome Blues - performed by: Tom Phillips
4. Lost Highway - performed by: Tim Williams
5. There'll Be No Tear Drops Tonight 
                                                 - performed by: Stewart  MacDougall
6. Jambalaya (On The Bayou) - performed by: Jane Hawley
7. Your Cheatin' Heart - performed by: Billy Cowsill
8. My Heart Would Know - performed by: Stewart MacDougall
9. Lovesick Blues - performed by: Tom Phillips
10. Take These Chains From My Heart 
                                                               - performed by: Jane Hawley
11. Hey, Good Lookin' - performed by: Billy Cowsill
12. On The Banks Of The Old Ponchartrain 
                                                                - performed by: Tim Williams
13. Cold, Cold Heart - performed by: Tom Phillips
14. Men With Broken Hearts - performed by:Stewart MacDougall
15. I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow 
                                                                - performed by: Tim Williams

Disc 2: Touched By The Spirit Of Hank:

1. Alberta Winds - performed by: Tim Williams
2. I'm A Little Bit Lonesome (And Just A Little Bit Blue) 
                                                                 - performed by: Billy Cowsill
3. The Starlight Motel - performed by: Tom Phillips
4. Sympathetic Heart - performed by: Jane Hawley
5. If You're Still There - performed by: Stewart MacDougall
6. Hotter Than Fire - performed by: Billy Cowsill
7. Wouldn't It Be Nice - performed by: Jane Hawley
8. I'm Not Missing You At All - performed by: Tim Williams
9. I Was Gonna Clean Up A Little (But I Messed Up Bad Instead) 
                                                                 - performed by: Tom Phillips
10. Wrong Side Of The Hill - performed by: Stewart MacDougall
11. Please Check Your Heart At The Door 
                                                                - performed by: Jane Hawley
12. Wherever There's A Party - performed by: Tom Phillips
13. For Lovin' You - performed by: Tim Williams
14. It's Over When Somebody Wins 
                                                   - performed by: Stewart MacDougall
15. It's Over - performed by: Billy Cowsill  


                          #13#13                         #13

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You really don’t have to be a fan of Hank Williams music (although I’ve never heard of such a species) to enjoy this 2-CD collection featuring renditions of his classic songs and hit recordings, and new material in large part inspired by the immortal Williams. The recordings feature performances by five Alberta-based country artists.

Disc One contains marvelous interpretations of Williams’ nuggets by project producer Tim Williams (Lost Highway / On The Banks Of The Old Ponchartrain / I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow); Jane Hawley (I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry / Jambalaya / Take These Chains From My Heart); Stewart MacDougall (There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight / My Heart Would Know / Men With Broken Hearts); Tom Phillips (Long Gone Lonesome Blues / Lovesick Blues / Cold, Cold Heart); and Billy Cowsill ( You Win Again / Your Cheatin’ Heart / Hey Good Lookin’). Sadly, these recordings by Billy Cowsill, and his new compositions on Disc Two of the album, would mark his final work before his passing, February 18th, 2006.

Disc Two features the same five artists, this time performing their own compositions, under the sub-title Touched By The Spirit Of Hank. Included are songs by Tim Williams ( Alberta Winds / I’m Not Missing You At All / For Loving You); Jane Hawley (Sympathetic Heart / Wouldn’t It Be Nice / Please Check Your Heart At The Door); Stewart MacDougall ( If You’re Still There / Wrong Side Of The Hill / It’s Over When Somebody Wins); Tom Phillips (The Starlight Motel / I Was Gonna Clean Up A Little / Wherever There’s A Party); and Billy Cowsill’s (I’m A Little Bit Lonesome / Hotter Than Fire / It’s Over Now).

All five singer/songwriters featured here no doubt have a deep devotion for the music of Hank Williams…but one would suspect that Hank himself must be smiling down on these five with a confirming nod that their new songs performed here, fit very snugly alongside his masterful creations.

Sorrow Bound – Hank Williams Re-Examined, is one of the finest recording projects in Cancountry history and deserves serious recognition for Album Of The Year…on both sides of the border !!
- Larry Delaney



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