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Music Review: Studio Tenns The Hank Legacy: The Songs of Hank Williams

The cast of “The Hank Legacy” The Songs of Hank Williams Photo by ANTHONY MATULA

Elegantly simple in form and pitch-perfect in delivery, Studio Tenn's musical revue "The Hank Legacy: The Songs of Hank Williams" is a worthy tribute to its late great namesake and a shining debut as the company's 2013-2014 season opener and first-ever original production.

This show isn't just for fans of Hank Williams—it's for fans of music. Employing a delightfully diverse, inter-genre cast of singers and instrumentalists, "The Hank Legacy" aptly showcases the universality of Williams’ widely beloved catalog, featuring more than 30 of his hits performed with a variety of timbres and styles.

The production runs through September 15th at the Franklin Theatre. For tickets visit

Nashvillians especially may be accustomed to hearing Hank's voice, but his music gains new dimension when refracted through eight distinct others. Don Chaffer is commendable as music director and conductor, as well as cast member. Jake Bradley, Garett Buell, Jared Manzo and Caitlin Nicol-Thomas round out the extraordinary on-stage band.

While no one plays Hank in the sans-storyline revue (the songs themselves are rich with narrative), Matt Haeck perhaps channels him most closely in Act II's simple, stripped-down performance of “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Haeck's tipsy twangy "Tear In My Beer" lends a splash of humor; in stark contrast, the brooding "Ramblin' Man," is as raw and grungy as the weary vagrant it depicts.

Nashville singer-songwriter Jillian Edwards wields an enchanting voice that evokes the purity of Alison Krauss and the smoky warmth of Norah Jones. She floats angelically through "Please Don't Let Me Love You", but gains gravity in her captivating and powerful "Take These Chains From My Heart."

Edwards charms alongside Will Solomon in the acoustic "Lovesick Blues," a lovely duet reminiscent of indie folk's "She & Him." His earthiness plus her sweetness are as natural a combination as peanut butter and jelly.

Solo, Solomon lends a Bluesy grit to the mix. His romp-stomp renditions of "Lost Highway" and "I'm A Long Gone Daddy" take pages from today's roots revival and remind of Oliver Wood's rustic jazzy vocals.

Resident diva Libby Hodges (Smokey Joe's Cafe) belts "Your Cheatin' Heart" with a vengeance, in every sense of the term. She and super-polished counterpart Patrick Thomas sizzle in a sultry "Hey, Good Lookin'," and pull out all the stops in their sweeping, piano-backed "Lost On The River."

Carrie Tillis, herself country music royalty, lends her learned, velvety voice to "Someday You'll Call My Name," "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" and others. Her harmonies with Val Storey are perfection.

Special mention is due Storey, whose heavy-hitting "Cold, Cold Heart" begets the best kind of chills. Perhaps more than any other moment in the show, this classic number makes a convincing case that the domain of sad songs is ultimately the bread and butter of Hank's home genre—and vice versa.

There are plenty of bright high points—the buoyant "Jambalaya" and "I Saw The Light" had the audience clapping along—but “The Hank Legacy’s” very finest moments are some of its bluest.

The haunting a capella reprise of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" in Act II poignantly underscores the bittersweet truth that, when all embellishments are stripped away, human voices—and human struggle—are the raw materials of truly timeless music.

Posted on: 9/5/2013


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