The Hank Legacy

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He sits alone in a hazy shaft of spotlight, his fingers tenderly pulling a woeful tune from the strings of his guitar. A voice heavy with anguish begins to sing, “Did you ever see a robin weep when leaves begin to die? Like me, he’s lost the will to live. I’m so lonesome I could cry…” And my heart hurts. And all the lonely in my life seems to be wound up in this moment, this song, the lone singer and mournful strings.

She takes the stage like she owns it. “Hey, Good Lookin'” has never been so sassy, so strong. I feel the power of her voice reverberate in my chest and I wish, just once, I could know what it feels like to make a sound like that. Then the song becomes a duet and he gives it back to her line for line and it is the most playful, musical sort of flirtation and rivalry and fun.

Her voice is clean and clear, sweet with an unexpected warmth. And when she lofts into the high notes it is almost too beautiful to bear. The accompaniment is uncluttered. Simple. As it should be. “Please, don’t let me love you, cause I know you’ll be untrue.”

He can barely stay aloft on the bar stool. Sometimes he leans his head against the body of his guitar for support. He drags and slurs through “There’s a Tear in My Beer” while the whole cast tries to speed him on and we laugh until our sides ache and when I am sure it can’t get any funnier, it does, and it seems wrong to laugh at another’s misfortune and maybe I could stop except that the other guy starts playing the harmonica and it seems he is almost having to chase it down to play it and he is apparently as drunk as the other fellow and if they don’t stop soon I will probably wet my pants….

Four women exchange lines about love lost, then the instruments drop out, and their voices find harmonies and sail round our heads like wind and we are all wrapped up in it. “Alone and forsaken by God and by man. Oh Lord if you hear me please hold to my hand. Oh please understand.”

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These are just a few favorite moments from “The Hank Legacy: The Songs of Hank Williams”, an original musical review from Studio Tenn Theatre Company in Franklin. Hank sang a variety of styles and Studio Tenn honors this with their varied interpretations. The show includes everything from down and dirty blues, to rip roaring country bluegrass complete with pedal steel guitar, banjo, autoharp and a half dozen guitars, to tender acoustic ballads, to gospel tunes that make the heart soar.

Everything is artfully done right down to the set design. The show takes place, appropriately, in a honky tonk (where you can buy libations before the show and during intermission). I especially love the pendant lights made from Bulleit Bourbon bottles. The band is situated on a platform that amplifies the stomping of their feet when things get especially rowdy. And, there is a honky tonk piano in the corner that gets a real workout, especially on the heart wrenching “Lost on the River”.

Something must be said of the violinist who truly makes her instrument sing. It races and rollicks on the lively numbers, and it laments and very nearly weeps on the tragic ones. And her body is all one with the instrument and the playing is like dancing and I can’t not watch her.

The evening culminates in a gospel sing. Hank Williams loved gospel music. Like Elvis, he seemed to find a reverie there, an escape from his crazy life, a hope for redemption, peace. Everyone piles in on “I Saw the Light”. Guitars wail, the violin saws as though it will break, and  sweet gospel harmonies have our hearts throbbing with the palpable joy of it.

This is one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen. It was interrupted by no less than 8 standing ovations the evening we attended! It is that exceptional. At the end, I wanted to beg them to do it all over again. If you live anywhere close to the Nashville area, I strongly encourage you to see The Hank Legacy. In fact, even if you don’t, it merits a road trip. 🙂 It plays for two more weekends. Get tickets HERE. Just to tempt you, I offer this:

Photographs and highlight reel by ANTHONYMATULA. Sample more photos HERE and get a look behind the scenes HERE.