Hank Snow (1914-1999) was one of the great legends of 1950's Nashville -- he'd actually been kicking around up North for over a decade earlier, a big fish in the vast, icy pond of the Canadian country scene, where he was known as "the Singing Ranger." In his early years, Snow was a devoted follower of the late, great country blues yodeler Jimmie Rodgers, and he sang his fair share of cowboy songs and yodeling tunes. He moved to Nashville in the 1940s, but it wasn't until 1950 he had his big American breakthrough, when "I'm Movin' On" shot to #1 and dominated the country charts. Snow joined the Grand Ole Opry, had a brilliant string of hits in the early 'Fifties, and continued to record for several decades (although it has to be admitted that most of the fire was gone from his work from the 'Sixties onward...) Those early songs are true classics, though, and when you hear 'em, you'll be hooked. Here's a quick look at his work.
Hank Snow "Wanderin' On: The Best Of The Early Hank Snow" (Bear Family, 2003)
A long-overdue single-disc collection of Snow's early, pre-Nashville work on the Canadian RCA label. Lots of western-themed cowboy material, as well as blue yodels, ala his idol, Jimmie Rodgers. The recording dates on some of these tracks will floor you: some date back as far as 1936... and Snow didn't "make it" in America until 1950!! Talk about paying your dues. Musically, these tunes may sound too antiquated for most country fans, but for connoisseurs of range-riding cowboy oldies, this is a real treasure trove, and a welcome, affordable alternative to the massive Bear Family box sets that precede it.
Hank Snow "The Essential" (RCA Nashville, 1996)
Wahoo! A top-flight collection of hits by this Canadian country superstar, a lively picker and a charmingly croaky singer who wrote fabulously catchy and tearful classic country songs. The old stuff from the early 1950s -- "Movin' On," "Rhumba Boogie", etc. still sounds as great as ever. And actually, this is one of the few times I appreciate the inclusion of the cheesy countrypolitan stuff (a few tracks at the end of the disc)... not because I like them, but just because it really is an honest representation of Snow's career: he also made tons of drek from the mid-1960s on. Don't get me wrong, though: this CD is packed full of great music. Check it out!
Hank Snow "RCA Country Legends" (Buddah, 2001)
Nothing to complain about here... Snow's best-of collections are always a treat. I guess the previous Essential collection was a bit stronger, but this has several different tracks, as well as the big, big hits ("I'm Movin' On", etc.) that we know and love so well... Either way you go, you'll be super-happy if you check out this classic Hank Snow material.
Hank Snow "The Yodeling Ranger" (Bear Family, 1994)
This 5-CD set concentrates on Snow's early years working in Canada during the 1930s and '40s, before finally hitting it big in the US with "I'm Movin' On" and his other early '50s hits. At first blush, Snow's naked imitation of Jimmie Rodgers may seem a bit limited stylistically... But the more you listen, the more this will grow on you! I'm glad I have my copy!
Hank Snow "The Singing Ranger: 1949-53" (Bear Family, 1989)
A sweeping 4-CD set, capturing Snow at the height of his powers... If you can afford it, this is a real class act!
Hank Snow "The Singing Ranger, v.2" (Bear Family, 1990)
Hank Snow "The Singing Ranger, v.3" (Bear Family, 1992)
12-CD set (!) gathering the bulk of Snow's RCA years... Man, talk about monolithic box sets!
Hank Snow "The Singing Ranger, v.4" (Bear Family, 1995)
A 9-CD set that rounds off Bear Family's exhaustive Snow presentation. Whew! Includes a slew of live and instrumental tracks, as well as Snow's career-closing duets with Willie Nelson and Kelly Foxton.
Hank Snow "The Thesaurus Transcriptions" (Bear Family, 1995)
A 5-CD set of live radio performances recorded for the Thesaurus Transcription company... A nice chance to hear Snow in an informal setting, closer to what his live shows would have sounded like in the early '50s, when he was at his professional peak.
Hank Snow "The Singing Ranger" (ASV, 2003)
Hank Snow "Hank Snow Plays Guitar" (Jasmine, 2003)
Snow's skills as a lead guitarist were highly touted by the folks at RCA -- they issued numerous album tracks, and even full albums worth of all-instrumental recordings. This material has never done much for me, though; Snow's picking style always seemed pretty limited and monotone. But... I could just be completely off-base. You'll have to make up your own mind on this point...
Hank Snow "Snow On The Tracks" (Bear Family, 2008)
Like his idol, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow had an enduring love of trains, railroads and songs about traveling... This is one of a series of "theme" albums put together by Bear Family that repackage their massive Hank Snow box sets into smaller, bite-sized chunks. This includes recordings from througout Snow's career, combining songs from two train-themed albums, 1963's Railroad Man and Tracks And Trains, from 1971, along with individual songs cherry-picked from various albums . Whooooo-whoooooo!!
Hank Snow "Snow In Hawaii" (Bear Family, 2008)
Hank Snow had a long fascination with Hawaiian music... This includes his 1967 album of the same name, along the island-themed songs spanning back as far as the 1930s(!) when he was still shivering away up in Canada, dreaming of hula skirts, palm trees and sea shells. Mahalo plenty!
Hank Snow "Snow South Of The Border" (Bear Family, 2008)
"The Rumba Boogie" and "Spanish Fire Ball" were just a couple of the Latin-themed recordings that Snow recorded over his long career. This disc gathers tracks from across the years: Ay caramba!
Hank Snow "Snow Under Western Skies" (Bear Family, 2008)
Snow indulges his love of singing cowboy music on this western-themed set that gathers oldies from his pre-Nashville days, radio recordings and songs from his 1965 album, Heartbreak Trail, a tribute to the Sons Of The Pioneers. Ride 'em, cowboy!
Hank Snow "Snow On Christmas" (Bear Family, 2008)
This CD combines Snow's 1967 Christmas With Hank Snow album with a number of holiday-themed songs from his radio transcription recordings. Ho-ho-ho! (PS - for more Christmas music, check out my Hillbilly Holiday section.
Hank Snow "Just Keep A-Movin' " (RCA, 1955) (LP)
Hank Snow "Old Doc Brown And Other Narrations By Hank Snow" (RCA, 1955) (LP)
Hank Snow "Country & Western Jamboree" (RCA, 1957) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hank Snow Sings Sacred Songs" (RCA, 1958) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hank Snow Sings Jimmie Rodgers Songs" (RCA, 1959) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hank Snow Souvenirs" (RCA, 1961) (LP)
Hank Snow "Big Country Hits (Songs I Hadn't Recorded Till Now)" (RCA, 1961) (LP)
Hank Snow "I've Been Everywhere" (RCA, 1963) (LP)
Hank Snow "Railroad Man" (RCA, 1963) (LP)
Hank Snow "More Hank Snow Souvenirs" (RCA, 1964) (LP)
Hank Snow "Songs Of Tragedy" (RCA, 1964) (LP)
Hank Snow & Chet Atkins "Reminiscing" (RCA, 1964) (LP)
Hank Snow "Your Favorite Country Hits" (RCA, 1965) (LP)
Hank Snow "Gloryland March" (RCA, 1965) (LP)
Hank Snow "Heartbreak Trail: A Tribute To The Sons Of The Pioneers" (RCA, 1965) (LP)
Hank Snow "The Best Of Hank Snow" (RCA, 1965) (LP)
Hank Snow "The Guitar Stylings Of Hank Snow" (RCA, 1966) (LP)
Hank Snow "Gospel Train" (RCA, 1966) (LP)
Hank Snow "This Is My Story" (RCA, 1966) (LP)
Hank Snow "Snow In Hawaii" (RCA, 1967)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
A delightful album -- very listenable and relaxed. As an old-time cowboy singer from the 1940's, Snow had dabbled in Hawaiian-themed music for decades, but this sweet-sounding record perfectly taps into the spirit of hapa haole island music, tilting more towards sentimental and nostalgic themes than novelty numbers... It's all great material (although a tune or two might be just ever-so-slightly culturally insensitive...) There aren't any actual Hawaiian musicians involved here -- the session players were all Nashville studio pros such as Pete Wade, Harold Bradley, Hargus Robbins, et. al., but they play everything so sweetly, while Jerry Byrd is there to add some Hawaiian-style authenticity on the steel guitar. Apparently the Glaser Brothers sang backup as well, on a tune or two... If you dig old-fashioned Hawaiian pop music, you'll want to check this one out.
Hank Snow "Christmas With Hank Snow" (RCA, 1967)
Hank Snow "Spanish Fire Ball And Other Hank Snow Stylings" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hits, Hits And More Hits" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
Hank Snow "Tales Of The Yukon" (RCA, 1968)
Hank Snow "Snow In All Seasons" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hits Covered By Snow" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Hank Snow & Chet Atkins "C.B. Atkins & C.E. Snow By Special Request" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Hank Snow "...Sings In Memory Of Jimmie Rodgers" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
Hank Snow "Cure For The Blues" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
Hank Snow "Tracks And Trains" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
Hank Snow "Award Winners" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
Hank Snow "The Jimmie Rodgers Story" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
Hank Snow "Grand Ole Opry Favorites" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
Hank Snow "Hello Love" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
Hank Snow "That's You And Me" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
Hank Snow "You're Easy To Love" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
Hank Snow & Jimmy Snow "Live From Evangel Temple" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
Hank Snow "#104 - Still Movin' On" (RCA, 1977) (LP)
Hank Snow "The Mysterious Lady" (RCA, 1979) (LP)
Hank Snow "Instrumentally Yours" (RCA, 1979) (LP)
Hank Snow & Kelly Foxton "Lovingly Yours" (RCA, 1980) (LP)
Hank Snow & Kelly Foxton "Win Some, Lose Some, Lonesome" (RCA, 1981) (LP)
Willie Nelson & Hank Snow "Brand On My Heart" (Columbia, 1985)
On one of his many 1980's duet albums, outlaw star Willie Nelson collaborates with the Singing Ranger on a slew of Snow's old hits from the 1950s and '60s, "Golden Rocket," "I'm Movin' On," etc. Sounds pretty darn good -- Snow was in amazingly good form for such an old duffer, and while Willie's contributions are a bit subdued, this disc is still definitely worth checking out.
Hick Music Index