It has been said many times, but it bears repeating: Hank Williams was the single most important figure in postwar country music. The warmth and intelligence of his songwriting raised the bar for songcraft in what was still called "hillbilly" music, and he was the first C&W artist whose material was regularly covered by pop acts. Williams also achieved a popularity that was all but unknown for country acts at the time, and he helped to strip the lower-class stigma that was often attached to the music at the time. And most importantly, he was a gifted performer who created a body of work that was remarkable in its ability to mine emotional depth out of simple materials. In 2011, Universal Music released Icon
, an 11-song collection of the very best of Hank Williams' hits, and 2014's Icon 2
is not a sequel but an expansion of that album. The first disc features Icon
in full, while the second includes another 11 songs that will be familiar to his many fans. The 22 songs included in this set are as good as anything Williams recorded in his too-short career, and while one could quibble endlessly about what is left out (especially since the material here could readily fit on one CD), what's here is masterful, and covers the many moods of this remarkable songwriter -- heartsick ("Your Cheatin' Heart"), yearning ("A Mansion on the Hill"), worshipful ("I Saw the Light"), cocky ("Why Don't You Love Me [Like You Used to Do]"), raucous ("Honky Tonkin'"), and emotionally desolate ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"). There are many more complete and better realized collections of Hank Williams' songs, but there isn't anything but great tunes performed beautifully on Icon 2
, and for someone looking for a compact sampler or an introduction to his hits, this is a fine value for the price.