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November 2001

God Damn that Fucking Family Tradition

A Review of Hank Williams III in New Orleans

by Chris Minnick

Our choice for entertainment in New Orleans on the night of my 30th birthday was between Junior Brown at the House of Blues and Hank Williams III at Howlin' Wolf. Junior Brown, although we've never seen him, seemed to me to be a pretty predictable commodity. Besides, he plays in Austin just about every week. So, we chose Hank III, knowing really not much more than his lineage and that he was a "Rising Rebel", as his album proclaims.

A Misfits shirt and a cowboy hat? Now, there's something you don't see every day. Best little Devil's Whorehouse in Texas?

Let me start by saying that I'm sure that we made the right choice—not that I wouldn't mind seeing Junior sometime. When faced with the choice between a Junior and a III, I'll pick the III any time (just my policy, though).

The opening act was a local band called Christian Serpas and Ghost Town. Christian Serpas made quite an impression at first. He's about 7 feet tall, and wears a black outfit with silver studs all over it. Unfortunately, except for some sort of homage to Johnny Cash, this Ghost Town band played a pretty standard mix of sappy and/or dumb country songs—some of their own and quite a few covers. To their credit, they didn't play very long and so I didn't really get a chance to start getting irritated.

Hank and his five-piece band (drums, bass, fiddle, slide guitar, and Hank on guitar) came on at around 11:00. Their first set was one of the best shows—certainly the best "country" show— I've ever seen. Except, it wasn't exactly country ... much to the surprise of the older folks in the crowd. I would describe the best songs in the first set as a cross between Gunrack and somebody else ... but I'm not very literate in this genre, so I won't say who.

Multiple Personalities?

He looks like Ryan Reeves.

I'm not usually one to evaluate someone's mental health, but this Hank has some issues. Who wouldn't? Most of his songs were about how he's not what everyone expects, and about how he's a rebel, how he hates new country, and how he smokes dope, and about how he doesn't care what you think. Really, he's the Eminem of country—or he wants to be the Eminem of country, in that same way that Eminem wants to be the Eminem of rap. Still, let me just say again, he and his band of rebels put on an incredible show.

Before the last two songs, he made a little speech about how country music was bullshit (which made me happy) and how everyone who was there to see country music had better leave after two more songs because they would be taking a short break and coming back out to play the death metal set. I said, ok, that makes sense—NOT.

The metal stuff was ok in the way that death metal can be ok. The strangest thing was that the band was the same, except that Hank took his hair out of the braid and let it flow free. The rest—including the fiddle and slide guitar players—stayed the same. Those two guys could have just stayed backstage, since they couldn't be heard at all over the drums and Hank's guitar, and looked silly to boot. After his standard "I don't need my grandpa to make me famous, I'm a rebel" spiel, it seemed a little like Hank III uses the country set to get people to watch his death metal show.

Future King of Death Country?

At the end of the night, we were impressed with this Hank Williams, but we felt like there could have been more overlap between the country and the metal rather than two separate sets. Pioneering a "fusion" or "hybrid" genre called Death Country or something similar seems to be the best option for Hank III. Given his understandable (and welcome) hatred for new country, and the fact that his name won't do him one bit of good with the death metal crowd, pursuing a middle ground seems like the only sensible choice.

Who knows, maybe someday Hank Williams III will be immortalized as the king of country metal. His hit songs, like "Goat Blood on the Barn Door" and "Judgment Day in Nashville" may someday become standards on Karaoke machines all over the world. In fact, Hank III could spark a countrified revolution. Who says that "pure country" can only be mixed with classic rock and the occasional mocking "alternative" or punk sounds? Why not country gangsta rap? Country soul! Country techno! It's a whole new world out there, and as long as country music dominates 4 out of 5 radio stations in this country, it actually could make good sense for everyone to sell out and cash in!

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