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Friday, September 19, 2008

CD Review: Hank III - Damn Right, Rebel Proud

Hank III - Damn Right, Rebel Proud
The Sidewalk Records
2008 Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I used to laugh at my folks as a teenager when we they'd warn me I would one day like country music. Such a prospect to a devout headbanger was as foolish as proposing Republicans would one day turn pro choice. Welp, the times are a'changin' and a bunch of repeatedly-spun psychobilly albums later, I found myself digging Brian Setzer, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, pre-rock 'n roll Buddy Holly, a bunch of Texas bop and of course the elder Hank Williams. Sure, I was raised on Hee Haw as a kid and I thought bluegrass banjo picking was really freakin' cool, but not as cool as the cacophonous racket of six-string shredding. I will even admit I got really into pure western music when hanging in Colorado. Then one day, into my mid-thirties...

Hank III has long been embraced by the punk underground and to some extent, the metal contingency. The junior of the three-man Williams lineage is reportedly the biggest hellraiser of them all, which is funny considering his brand of country is largely in tribute to the more conservative sticking and picking of his late grandfather, albeit there's plenty of piss and swill from his father's take-no-shit ramblings to be found in Hank III's music. In the III's case, it's his rambunctious, take everything to the edge flair beneath the hokey pokey country twang that endears him to the darkest fringes of modern culture. Punkers appreciate Hank III's rebel-to-the-core ethos, while headbangers can appreciate the largely brisk-paced note-jerking to young Hank's revisionist country music. Somehow, in the midst of producing conventional beer-tugging country rock, Hank III manages to mix things up just enough to be pure country and at-heart metal and punk.

On his latest album Damn Right, Rebel Proud, Hank III opens the festivities with his lambasting "The Grand Ole Opry (Ain't So Grand)," a venomous tirade against the reputed hoity-toitiness of the Opry that, according to Hank, has snubbed and stubbed his grandfather, long considered one of the founding fathers of country music. The mistreatment is as shameful as if the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame had willfully neglected to bring Jimi Hendrix in, not that either venue should be so uppity as to judge and discriminate music according to their own standards. Here is largely what Hank III is getting at, however he pushes his point to the extreme with profanity and verbal abuse in his furious campaign to get his grandpappy proper due recognition.

Along the way, Damn Right, Rebel Proud pokes here and there with prototype cry in your empty mug ditties (though in Hank III's case, you know there's a shtick to it all), along with random edgy topics such as pondering killing one's self ("Candidate For Suicide") and the declaration of refusal to settle down in life ("Wild & Free," "Me & My Friends" and "Stoned & Alone). Not only rockers and metal slingers life the crash and burn lifetstyle...

At times, Hank III lets his affnity for punk music slip into "H8 Line" and "P.F.F.," the latter of which is dedidcated to GG Allin and full of fast-picking and dirty-slung F-bombs. "Shades of Black" is inherently metal even with the singular acoustic shambling, because Hank III caterwauls here and there and even fuses a jokey backwards message.

What's great about Damn Right, Rebel Proud is that you hardly have a clue you're listening to a metal and punk album in the guise of highway-dusted country. At times this album flies like a slide guitar-soaked wildebeast, and others it just puts you in a hick bar where everyone's your buddy for the night. Hank III may still have some odds with his sire, which you hear him grumble every so often about on this album, but at least Hank Williams, Jr. had the foresight to tap into rock measures at points in his career, so much that he's respected by the music community at-large. Hank III may not be for everyone's tastes in both the country and rock circuits, but he's brave, headstrong and reckless, perhaps the most noteworthy country antihero since Conway Twitty, much less Johnny Cash.

Rating: ****


Anonymous said...

a true masterpiece

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