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Classic of the Week

Del Shannon "Del Shannon Sings Hank Williams: Your Cheatin' Heart" (1964) Bug/Rhino

June 24, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

When Del Shannon scored his signature rock hit "Runaway" in 1961, it came as a surprise to all concerned: Up until then, Shannon had been Charles Westover, just another country singer pounding the bars in his native Michigan. A subsequent string of rock hits culminated in his return to the Top 10 in 1964 with "Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow the Sun)," shortly before Peter and Gordon scored a Top 10 hit of their own with Shannon's "I Go to Pieces." With their boy's commercial profile at its peak, the story goes, his record company wanted him to put another rock album together. But Shannon had something else in mind: a collection of his favorite Hank Williams songs, the ones he used to sing way back when. His trademark falsetto is perfectly suited to the vocal leaps in such Hank yodelers as "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" and "Hey Good Lookin'."

What rock fans might not expect is the easy authority he displays with such weepers as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." This is stripped-down, straight-to-the-heart singing and playing (by some of the very musicians who'd backed him during his honky-tonkin' days) akin to the "new traditionalist" approach so in vogue in Nashville now.

Out of print for years, the album was been a prize for Shannon collectors until a few years ago when Rhino and Shannon's publisher, Bug Music, re-released it on CD.

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