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Family Tradition, Indeed
Damn Right, Rebel Proud (Curb Records)
Hank Williams III
By Hunter Embry
The grandson of Hank Williams and son of Hank Williams Jr., Hank Williams III proves that addiction and nearly-psychotic tendencies do run in the family. Much like his live sets, which consist of a first show of old-style country honky-tonk that is followed by a second set of the same sounds mashed together with hardcore punk, his latest release Damn Right, Rebel Proudcontains a little of both and each track is bolstered by socially unacceptable lyrics.
Hank III bares an uncanny resemblance to his skinny-faced grandfather and has an even more similar voice, but his topics pick at what made his father famous – while taking them a little bit further. For instance, the opening track of Damn Right, Rebel Proud, titled "The Grand Ole Opry (ain't so Grand)" opens with fast pickin' fiddles, guitars and banjos while Hank III talks about his the Opry being "nervous about Waylon ‘cause he had a crooked smile / For many, many years they never wanted Bosephus ‘cause he's too god damn loud." He continues to talk about who runs the Opry and who isn't part of it and why – all the while managing to include just about every "bad word" in the book.
"Wild & Free" is similar. Hank III toys assures his listeners that he sticks to the traditional country values of hard work, praying and "living off the land." He talks about drinkin' hard and raising hell with a sorrowful slide guitar in the distance and peppy banjo plucking alongside his raspy voice. Most of Damn Right, Rebel Proudis just what you'd expect from the product of two of countries biggest outlaws, rebellious and crazier than the last, but some of the album's best tracks are those that deviate furthest from his generational platform.
"Long Hauls & Close Calls" is a mix of distorted honky-tonk, shredding guitars played in a bluegrass style and Hank III's familiar rasp backed by a vocal-shredding scream. "The Devil, the Devil, the Devil is a friend of mine," Hank III yells throughout the chorus. Oddly enough, it doesn't sound too over the top. Sure it takes a few listens, but the trans-genre-d music developed by country's most famous grandson is fresh and entertaining, to say the least. His harmonies are right-on, the mixes are strange but appealing and the lyrics thought-provoking.
Perhaps the most appealing is the song "3 Shades of Black." It's an ode to his singing relatives. The track starts with a hopping acoustic guitar riff similar to Johnny Cash's hits; Hank III begins by singing in an eerie low-toned voice, "Three shades of black is where I come from / Depression, misery and hellacious fun. / No, we're not the types to turn our backs and run… We are a certain breed and we don't like you."
Unlike so many other musical offspring with a famous family lineage, Hank III is able to take what his father and grandfather established and add his own modern spin – seemingly effortlessly. Hank III was born into outlaw-country royalty and with Damn Right, Rebel Proud, he's earned his keep.
You can always learn more at www.hank3.com.