The third annual tribute to Hank Williams at the Birchmere on Thursday night was often marked by great sadness and sorrow--no doubt just as the late singer-songwriter would have liked it.
That's because the dozen musicians assembled onstage frequently took enormous delight plumbing the darkest depths of Williams's repertoire, which included such lesser known honky tonk ballads as "When You're Tired of Breaking Other Hearts Won't You Come Back and Break Mine." Of course, there were plenty of familiar tearjerkers to go around too, including Linda and Robin Williams's poignant rendering of "Cold, Cold Heart," John Starling's soulful reprise of "(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle," and Cathy Fink's sparse and solemn banjo arrangement of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
In between, there was plenty of comic and sonic relief. In addition to lacing many of the tunes with deep-toned Telecaster twang, guitarist Bill Kirchen briefly played exultant trombone and even improvised a surf guitar version of "Jambalaya." Starling exhumed the deadpan novelty "Everything's OK," Marcy Marxer played some buoyant swing guitar, and when fiddler-guitarist Mike Stein began to yodel, he briefly sounded like one of Hank Williams's Swiss cousins. Bassist Mark Shatz and pedal steel guitarist Dave Giegerich contributed subtle touches to the arrangements throughout the show, which was capped by a full-cast encore of "I Saw the Light" rousing enough to chase all the blues away.