Friday, June 23, 2006

Hank Williams III - Straight to Hell

Tomorrow night I'll be missing Hank III in the KC/Lawrence area for the fourth time in a year and a half. Hopefully he doesn't stop touring before I leave my second shift job, 'cause I'm looking forward to seeing him again.

I was originally hesitant to buy this album due to knowing many of the songs. I really enjoy the discovery of buying new albums and hearing stuff I don't know, and I thought that might be missing from this purchase as even two years ago when I last saw him at the Bottleneck, he was playing half of these songs. (That show on archive.org.) However, the arrangements are quite a bit different than what I remember and the bootleg versions I've come to know.

This album relies heavily on old-time instrumentation, going without drums for half of the tracks, often preferring dobro to the more countrypolitan steel, and featuring some amazing claw-hammer banjo by BR549's Donnie Herron. Hank name-checks the '70s outlaws several times, but the sound of this record largely bypasses a Texas influence, instead giving us a thoroughly Appalachian sound, although updated to include more than a nod at Hank's parallel interest in metal.

Lyrically, this album borders on the disturbing, concentrating on death and personal destruction of the chemical sort. I read an interview in which he said he isn't really that big of a hellraiser, that he saved his partying for on stage, but this album claims otherwise. Also, his insistence on the whole the-South-will-rise-again thing is somewhat annoying, especially when he parallels that with "real country" rising again, as if pop country was just another way northerners where subjugating the south. (I'm sure all the Dixie-loving Toby Keith fans would disagree.) However, when his celebration of rural Appalachian culture turns positive, such as in this song about the several famous residents of Boone Country, WV, this disc really hits the spot.

Listen:
Hank Williams III - D. Ray White

Buy:
From Amazon

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