Released as a companion piece to the three-disc box, THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS, GOSPEL KEEPSAKES (like the box) focuses on Hank Williams's stint on a WSM morning show sponsored by Mother's Best Flour company in 1951, a series of shows that found him loose, good-humored, and reaching deep into his repertoire. The country icon bookended each show with dusted-off gospel chestnuts--most of which feature the three-part harmonies of his backing group, the Drifting Cowboys, who rarely sang on his records.
While his legend remains synonymous with the rowdier side of country music, Hank reminds us that he was one heck of a gospel singer, as his trademark saw-toothed timbre reveals the same yearning ache in devotional songs that it did in lovelorn ones. Songs like "I Heard My Savior Calling Me" and "Drifting Too Far From the Shore" become tremulously alive in the hands of a man veritably surrounded--and eventually done in by--the temptations of the material world. With the exception of the previously unreleased gems "Thirty Pieces of Silver," "Farther Along," and a rousing version of "I Saw the Light," most tracks already appear on box sets. Despite the overlap, the collection works perfectly for country gospel fans (who could do without the secular tunes) or for Williams completists.