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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Album Review: Hank III's 3 Bar Ranch - Cattle Callin'

Hank III's 3 Bar Ranch - Cattle Callin'
2011 Hank 3 Records/Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Welcome to "cattle core," folks...

Only a renegade hombre like Hank III could conceive of something so outrageous yet produced under reasonably honorable intentions. This is one of three albums the grandson of legendary country liege Hank Williams will be releasing simultaneously on the same day. Of those, Hank III's 3 Bar Ranch will go down as the strangest concoction this side of Mike Patton and Jello Biafra--and wait until you get to the zydeco at the gates of Hell second album of Hank III's double dip, Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown.

If you're acclimated to the gonzo doings of Patton and Biafra's offshoot projects (not to mention the Butthole Surfers and even Brent Hinds of Mastodon's side gigs), you'll at least be prepared coming into 3 Bar Ranch's unbelievably weird Cattle Callin'. It's also unbelievably hilarious, whether Hank III intended it as such or not.

Fathom if you will, an unholy alliance between death metal, cowpunk, grindcore and thrash, all spewed singlehandedly by Hank III with dizzying sprays of cattle auctioneering overtop. Yeah, you're reading that correctly. Jettisoned from the inexplicably rapid mouths of actual cattle callers such as Tim Dowler, Joe Coggins, Hugh and Gwynn Howell, Mitch Jordan and others, you won't believe it at face value until you put this madcap son of a gun into your player.

Hank III chugs, twists, sears and propels insane crunch chords, gnashing guitar solos and ratchety drum smacking below the inhuman nattering of his dubbed auctioneer tracks. Cattle Callin' speeds and it huffs and it is a maniacal trip into an Arkansas hellhole where Hank III eventually twines in some filtered electro vocals--think Gibby Haynes--which pummel the snot out of the listener. Sometimes he pelts his audience with self-contained minute-plus blasts. Sometimes Hank III whirls up 10 minute marathons. For awhile, anyway, you'll be roaring along. If you think Gibby Haynes scatting all over Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod" is a trip, it's a mere jaunt to the chicken shack by comparison to 3 Bar Ranch.

What starts out as a complete scream eventually becomes a major endurance test as Cattle Callin' clocks in at 75 minutes of, well, psychotic cattle calling with an unhinged metallic undercarriage. Honestly, though, most folks stepping up to 3 Bar Ranch are quite possibly going to check out halfway through once the joke's been worn out.

Yet Hank III doesn't intend for Cattle Callin' to be a joke. His very serious intent is to lure younger generations in the west towards keeping an old tradition alive, even if it means seducing them with loud, crashing crunk. On the positive, though, Hank's playing is damned good, to the point you can disect his reckless yet hammering instrumentation from the nerve-wracking layers of quick-lipped steer selling. Hank shreds as impressively as he picks on his country tunes, but all the better this raging polecat knows how to disseminate genres and yet appeal to both. Well, at least the metal and punk sanctions are more open-minded towards Hank III's pure country than vice-versa. Try line dancing to this shit, Austin City Limits...

Hank III's decision to independently release 3 Bar Ranch along with his doom project Attention Deficit Domination and the double album Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown probably comes on the heels of his dissatisfaction with Curb Records, which really didn't know how to market Hank's wild side. At least his Hillbilly Joker album finally hit his fans, along with his punishing and frequently awesome Assjack endeavor.

Maybe only Mike Patton has more alter entities than Hank III, but the margin is closing quickly. No doubt Patton has to be saluting Cattle Callin' for its unapologetic moxy. This, along with Hank III's other two new albums, are all angry, bitter pills which you have to swallow sideways to get them down. Not many listeners have the constitution to hang with 3 Bar Ranch for the full hour fifteen, but catch what you can, because Cattle Callin' is history in the making. What that history is remains to be seen, but you'll at least have borne witness.

Rating: ***1/2


Anonymous said...

saw him last nite (1st ave mpls)fouth time over five years first time attracted to the best damned outlaw country since merle waylon david allen willie etc yes even johnny or hank lifelong deadhead phsycodeliac open minded to all art so stayed for all of it from squaredance from hell days to last nite obvious in this case genius truely did skip a generation

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thanks for the comment, anon. Never was a big Bocephus fan, though I well love HW the original and III intrigues me at every turn with everything he does. Brother has gonads of steel.

Anonymous said...

I saw Hank 3 last night in Des Moines; this is the second time I've seen him and this time I stayed longer, through his second Doom set and into the third "III Bar Ranch" set.

I primarily enjoy his "real" country, his vocals and the amazing pickers are a nice throwback; and the Hellbilly is neck and neck for the same reasons and the added edge, but I had no idea what to expect from the "Doom" set, let alone III Bar Ranch.

H3 used to call it "Jekyll and Hyde" and you really start to see that transistion with the Doom set - gone is the cowboy hat and the array of incredible "pickers". It's just Sheldon, hair down, axe in hand, and a drummer that does his best to rearrange your guts.

Hank grinds and crunches in time to the images projected on a screen behind him. I didn't see many sober people all night, including in the mirror in the bathroom, but everyone that stuck around was intoxicated - so much so nobody moved during the entire set, even though there was plenty of room to move closer.

It's hard to say in our YouTube world that you've never seen anything like this before, but I'd never seen anything like that before.

Then on came the bandanna, the body armor (hard to explain it any other way) and III Bar Ranch. This was performance art ... and I'd never seen anything like it before. I hung in for 25 minutes but the wall of noise outpaced my patience and need for a hint of melody. But for the second time in a three hour period, I can say I'd never seen anything like that before.


Anonymous said...

For those of us that grew up on outlaw country, then moved on to misfits, SLAYER, and kept a open mind on music, Hank 3 is a blessing. Keep the insanity coming and i'll keep listening. 666

Anonymous said...

absolutely! I grew up with the outlaws too and been listening to hank sr. since I was in the womb. LOVE 3!

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