Friday, January 25, 2013

Song of the Week: Hank Williams III - Country Heroes

Hank Williams III's grandaddy was the most famous musician of his age and genre. That man, Hank Williams, dies of alcohol poisoning at the age of 29. In that brief life he would place no less than 35 singles in the C&W Top 10.  Hank Williams' son, Jr.,  struggles to get out of dad's inescapable shadow. Like his dad, Hank Jr. struggles with alcohol and drugs. Then he suffers a near fatal accident as he falls off a mountain (yep, that's right, a mountain). It leaves his face seriously disfigured. He rebounds to make a living by selling a rowdy, hell raising, damn the torpedoes image.

Hank III, a dead ringer for his grandfather, has fought his own demons and seems to also be caught in the shadow of his namesake grandfather. Drugs, alcohol and wild nights are part of Hank III's lore, just as it was for grand-daddy and dad. Can III escape it? Does he want to escape the family tradition? It's hard to tell and it is certainly not for me to try to act like I know. 

At times Hank III's music feels like an angry bender where the singer destroys his room and smashes his mirror as he glimpses not himself, but who he thinks he is supposed to be. A black hole of a ghost from the past. But more and more his music is starting to sound like it is truly an extension of his voice. Raw, rowdy, reflective and without remorse. All those things that his progenitors were. But maybe, just maybe, that IS what he is.

In our SOTW, Country Heroes, Hank III embraces that larger legacy in one of his more mellow songs. One suspect's It's a cathartic moment for him. The whole album from which this is extracted, Straight To hell, is perhaps cathartic. He recorded and produced it himself with a variety of close friends on a $500 recorder. They worked independent of the label and it feels like the most complete work from III yet. Enjoy.