When Leslie Tom weeps, as she does so rather profusely with “Angel of Death,” a little known Hank Williams b-side, paired to 1954’s post-humous single “(I’m Gonna) Sing, Sing, Sing,” you feel the cold, blunt weight of every syllable. Tom has a way of penetrating your soul. The singer, who returns with her first new full-length in 12 years, a tribute record called Ain’t It Something, Hank Williams (out now), manages to rebuild the Williams cut into a chilling composition. “When The Angel of Death comes down after you, can you smile and say that you have been true? Can you truthfully say, with your dying breath, that you’re ready to meet the Angel of Death?” she sings, unpacking her own bruised psyche and brushes with death into a stormy wallop of a vocal performance.
Tom’s version remains firmly planted in the Williams original, fleshed out with fuller production and harmony work and ominous dobro playing from Andy Hall, of the Infamous Stringdusters. “The song spoke to me in a way his other songs do not,” she tells B-Sides & Badlands. Tom struck some good luck in purposely seeking out such an obscure Williams song, allowing herself to be pulled in the right direction by fate. “Since I’m in a place in my own life where mortality is ever-present with aging parents, a child and husband to think about before myself and facing the loss of a parent, the words of the song run through my head often in my own daily routine,” she says.