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Hank III wears the burden well

Axis, Boston, November 2, 2005

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Carrying the name of a musical great, let's say Hank Williams, could be the kiss of death. The burden, to say the least, to live up to expectations is very heavy.

But Hank Williams III, grandson of one of the seminal figures in country, continues the family tradition of doing things his way. In the case of III, that means going against the Nashville grain to say the least, even if he is signed to a mainstream label there (Curb).

The heavily tattooed Hank III has been known as a hell raiser in his own right and had his share of issues.

But ultimately the baggage or boost that one's name may give a musician doesn't matter all that much if the artist isn't worthy in his own right as a musician.

And while this was not a perfect night for Williams - he was obviously suffering from a cold, but trooped on - he ably demonstrated that he was entertaining, knowing a thing or two about putting a song together and delivering it live.

He also didn't necessarily keep it country.

For the first 65 minutes, Williams concentrated on country with lots of emphasis on drinking, substances (alcohol and cocaine often were the substances of choice) and just general hell raising.

The opening song underscored that with Williams on acoustic guitar singing "I'm going straight to hell/Ain't nothing slowin' me down/I'm going straight to hell/so you just better get me one more round."

With his voice under the weather, Williams did better when he get it softer because when he revved it up a bit, he tended to be too gravelly.

He wasn't running away from his past either as he paid tribute to his past, including his grandfather, David Allan Coe and others.

Williams also proved to be humorous, maybe even without trying. He adopts such an anti-establishment stance whether it's Nashville's record labels for going pop country (by now it's getting rather old though) or jail ("7 months, 39 Days") or drugs and alcohol ("Mississippi Mud") that you almost have to smile. He did a good job, but sometimes it's time to move on and leave the ills of the world behind.

Williams was backed capably, especially fiddler player Adam McOwen and steel guitar and Dobro man Andy Gibson.

And for something completely different, after the country set was over, Williams went onto to do a hellbent set combining country and hard rock before going real hard with the band Assjack. Williams has played with Superjoint Ritual, an all-star hard metal group so this was part of his repertoire.

Williams took off his hat, changed his clothing a bit and wailed away vocally and on electric guitar.

Williams deserves credit for just going down the same old well-trodden country path. He didn't seem to need a set list and on several occasions asked the audience what they wanted to hear. Don't ever accuse him of being part of the production line, probably just like his dad, Hank Jr. and grandfather.