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Hank Williams III

Straight to Hell – 2006 (BRUC)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Hank Williams III

Compared to Hank III, most of what passes for outlaw music in Nashville these days isn't much more dangerous than your average truant middle schooler. Shelton Hank Williams III - grandson of a country diety, son of a country rock legend - has always known his path would be vastly different from either of his iconic predecessors, and he has never bowed to any pressure to be anything other than his own damn self.

Hank III has careened from unadulterated classic country to the punk music he played as a teen to the speed metal he has come to embrace as an adult.On his new two-disc release, Hank III splits the difference between hardcore country classicism and the wildly eclectic sonic maelstrom he's always created on a parallel trajectory.

The first disc is straight up, purebred country music, but done as only Hank III would dare conceive; guitars pick, fiddles keen, banjos plink and pedal steels moan as Hank III intones mournfully, "There's blood on the carpet, and holes in the wall/It must have been them pills I took/the mirrors are all busted and someone's cryin'/It must have been them pills I took" ("Pills I Took"), and there's plenty more classic mayhem beyond that.

Disc two is comprised of two tracks, the country murder ballad "Louisiana Stripes" and its 42-minute coda, a country/metal/psychedelic sonic experiment that includes III's first cover of a Hank Williams song ("I Could Never Be Ashamed of You"), his take on a Wayne Hancock tune and tons of sampled and manipulated auditory connecting tissue (trains, heartbeats, hoofbeats, river currents, a coyote, a funeral sermon).

For the easily offended, a clean version is available, deleting the lascivious "Dick in Dixie" and "Crazed Country Rebel," but honestly, if you're that sensitive, you have no business listening to III. Musically traditional, lyrically edgy and sonically adventurous, Hank III translates his legacy singularly and without apology.