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It was New Year’s Day, 1953. Hank Williams died en route to a show in Canton, Ohio, alone in the backseat of a sedan at the age of 29. The Alabama boy, ravaged by drink and chronic back pain, became a tragic hillbilly hero; classics like ”I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and ”Your Cheatin’ Heart” continue to haunt honky-tonks and hipster record collections. It’s no overstatement to say that his ghost lingers in the pages of Hank Williams: Snapshots From the Lost Highway (Da Capo, $35). Colin Escott and Kira Florita, aided by the Williams family, culled never-before-seen photographs, letters, and recollections from the men and women who loved him and feared for him. Rick Bragg’s foreword pays a salty tribute to Williams and bemoans today’s country stars, who sing ”pop music in snap pearl buttons.” But most valuable are the yellowed sheets of unpublished handwritten lyrics, like the scrap found on the floor of the car that carried him to his death: ”We met we lived/And dear we loved/Then came that fatal day/The love that/Felt so dear fades far/Away.”

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