Review – Hank III – 2/28 – Grand Ballroom, San Francisco, CA

After waiting in the long stretch of black metal, punk, and outlaw country shirts, gimmie caps, and skin ink and whiskey in equal proportions, I arrive at the front of the gilded Grand Ballroom where I’m frisked before entry. Is this a bad omen or should the tightened security make me feel safer? For all the bad-ass attitude I found most people in the entry line, and beforehand at the Rout 101 Bar across the street, to be good-natured if raucous. Like a home-coming with a large, extended, disfunctional hillbilly family.

The opening act Those Poor Bastards played a feverish Southern-gothic welcoming the onslaught of clashing cultures that was taking place in front of them. “See you all in hell” vocalist Lonesome Wyatt called to the crowd as they left the stage. Was that a curse or an invitation to the party to come? I was unsure.

Shelton Hank Williams III bypasses the genteel pageantry manufactured by family-friendly backdrops like the Grand Ole Opry (with which he has a well reported beef) and taps back to the rough breeding dirt-ground that hewed many of the Opry’s roster in order to create his persona and his songs. So it’s no wonder that a Hank III show should so closely resemble a (good-natured) saloon brawl.

9:30 sharp the stage goes dark and a recorded dirge like you might typically find opening a Slayer performance booms. The capacity crowd begins to flail, stomp and scream like some Pentecost tent revival simmering in the Southern heat.

Hank II and the Damn Band (Andy Gibson – Steel Guitar, Dobro, Daniel Mason – Banjo, Adam McOwen – Fiddle, Shawn McWilliams – Drums, Zach Shedd – Upright Bass and Assjack screamer Gary Lindsey was on hand for background, well, screaming) walks on the stage and lurched into “Straight to Hell” knowing just what the crowd wanted. All hell breaks loose and my prime spot 5 feet in front of III’s mic becomes ground zero for a swirling vortex of moshing frenzy. This is a country music show for gods sake! Someone forgotten to tell these poor savages this is not the way people conduct themselves in an ager where Taylor Swift or Kenny Chesney are the standard bearers for comtemorary country music.

They came like a 8 second bovine-induced blur  – original trad-country rippers like “Thrown out of the Bar,” “Country Heroes,” “Cecil Brown,” “D Ray White,” “Six Pack of Beer.” Hank III name-checked the greats in “Country Heroes” then covered the same with Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” daddy Bocephus’ “Family Tradition,” and his grandaddy’s last prophetic single released during his lifetime “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” The heat was turned up with the thrash ode to performace provocator GG Allin “Punch, Fight, Fuck” (featuring Gary Lindsey on background screaching like a menacing demon shadow.) If you were on the fence about Hank III coming into the show you now found yourself on your feet or on your ass..either way you were having a damn good time.

The genius of 70’s era Willie Nelson was his ability to ignore the Nashville model and, using only his uniques talents and a keen sense of cutural timing, brought together groups that at the time wouldn’t be caught dead in the same room – rednecks and hippies –  and to forge himself as a cultural icon and an entire country genre. Hank III hasn’t Willie’s genius for songwriting, but given what I witnessed this night his cutural confederacy is well under way.

Hank III -Nighttime Ramblin’ Man/Ballad of D Ray White = 2/28 – Grand Ballroom, San Francisco, CA

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m27gqejdtHQ[/youtube]

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Win 5 Grammys

  • LiveDaily Sessions features a exclusive video performance of Hank III doing Smoke & Wine, Six Pack of Beer and Country Heroes. Hank kicks off his Damn Right, Rebel Proud tour on Feruary 15th in New Orleans, LA.
  • The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) announced nominations for The 2009 JUNO Awards, including first-time nominees, Canadian roots-rock duo Twilight Hotel. Twilight Hotel is nominated in the Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group category. Nominated in the same category are Elliot Brood and NQ Arbuckle, as well as fellow-Winnipeggers, The Duhks and Chic Gamine. Winners will be declared at the JUNO Gala Dinner & Awards on Saturday, March 28, and The 2009 JUNO Awards broadcast on CTV on Sunday, March 29 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, BC.
  • Speaking of awards, it was a good night for roots-rock at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards last night. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand strtches Aamericana genres and the 5 Grammys awarded to the albumreflect that. Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album, Record of the Year, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (Killing The Blues) , and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (Rich Woman) as well as the evenings topper, the Album of the Year. I’m sure Plant is even motre comfortable with his decision to forego that lucrative Zep reunion.  Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder took home the Best Bluegrass Album award, Pete Seeger won for Traditional Folk Album, Bruce Springsten won Best Rock Song, and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones won for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Sugarland took home the Grammy for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals  (Stay), Brad Paisley won for Best Male Country Vocal Performance  (Letter To Me) and George Strait won his first Grammy of his career (!) for Best Country Album (Troubadour.) For a full list of Grammy nominees and winners, or to watch the pre-telecast ceremony that highlights the folk, bluegrass, and Americana awards visit Grammy.com

It Burns When I Pee Live Stream (heh!) Tonight

  • It Burns When I Pee, the only podcast covering the cutting edge and proud tradition of country music, will be streaming their show live tonight (7:30pm CST) and showing us how the sausage is made. And yes, that is a lewd comment directed towards Norma Jean. The final gussied up and edited edition will be available  on Jan 23rd which will feature an interview and music by Bob Wayne.
  • George Clinton, leader of the psychedelic funk music collective Parliament Funkadelic, is one of the celebrities participating in this season ofCMT’s  Gone Country 3.  Says Clinton: “I wanted to do Gone Country because I wanted to learn how to write country songs. I’ve written a lot of songs before, but I’ve never been validated as country, not even to myself. I’m country. I am a country boy. Johnny Cash, I like his songwriting. I used to watch Roy Clark and all them all the time — Chet Atkins and all those guys are really good songwriters. The lyrics for country songs are miles and miles ahead of almost anybody else’s lyrics. I guess everybody would agree there’s no comparison to it. I’m pretty sure I’ve got to do something that’s pretty challenging. I try not to imagine what it is, so when it happens I’ll just say I don’t have no time to do nothing but get off my ass and do it. I’m funky about doing whatever it takes.” I might have to actually watch it this season in spite of the homophobic midget host John Rich.
  • Mercury Nashville is set to release an LP version of Jamey Johnson‘s Grammy nominated album That Lonesome Song on January 27.  Since That Lonesome Song was released, it has spent 8 weeks in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart and has appeared on numerous 2008 Top-10 lists (including mine.)
  • Ryan Adams has announced a musical hiatus citing health issues and “narcissistic over-indulgent behaviour” as the reason. Really!? Who knew? In all seriousness, I hope Adams finds peace of mind in his reprieve.  (guardian.co.uk)
  • Shooter Jennings talks about to NPR World Cafe host David Dye about Waylon Forever, a collection of songs Shooter recorded with his dad Waylon Jennings in 1995. Shooter then revisited the material with his backing band, The .357s.
  • Joe Whyte is back with his band at the Rockwood on inauguration Tuesday. Aang great show will be had by all: Rockwood Music Hall
    196 Allen St., NYC – 8pm – FREE
  • New York blues guitarist Popa Chubby is readying his foray into country music entitled Vicious Country. The release features his wife Galea on bass. Below is a video shot at New York’s Rodeo Bar of Popa Chubby covering Hank Williams III‘s song Straight to Hell.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbaYETD15yY[/youtube]

The Best of 2008 (For Reals)

Propaganda has been honed to a fine art in the last half century. Americans have been convinced to fight wars, hand over civil and employee rights and consume ever crappier beer, food and, alas, music.

Mainstream Country Music is one of the few genres in the 21st century that tolerates no real deviation from certified Music Row and mainstream radio product. Sure there are exceptions, the Outlaw Movement cooped a largely ignored youth movement, Garth tweaked the business model and stage production and Big and Rich and their “MuzikMafia” was a painfully lame attempt to emulate Hip Hop’s concept of crews. But when it comes to altering the DNA of the music the image driven slickness and paint-by-numers narritives seem as tightly mandated as the McDonald’s Big Mac cooking process. If you don’t fit the hat act mold you are cast into the slums of Americana, folk, roots, alt.country or, if the sins were severe enough, rock!

Into this unyielding environment stepped artists that discovered that Cash, Willie and Hank were speaking to them in ways larger then the flavor of the week bands being crammed down their throats. That’s where the wild hillbilly muse dances. That way real beauty and art lay waiting.

Americana/roots/alt.country is attracting new talent that bravely straddles the cultural divide between trad sepia-toned country circa Jimmie Rogers and Carter Family and the current attitudes, sounds and stories of our times. New artists like O’Death, The Felice Bothers, Justin Townes Earle and Star Anna and road-tested warriors like Dale Watson, Eleven Hundred Springs and Tom Russell have Inject new blood, whiskey and adrenaline into a largely lifeless form of music that refuses to be embalmed.

And then there are the genre-crossing big-wigs like  Elvis Costello, Ray Davies, Chrissie Hynde and Robert Plant (who is currently nominated for 6 grammys and forgoing a Led Zeppelin reunion to continue Raising Sand with Bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss) that are moving toward a the wildser lands attracted by its proclivity for authenticity and celebration of  experimentation. The only sin is mediocrity, the only transgression is bovine conformity.

There’s no reward for compiling a “best of” list. People will quibble with the selections, the order of said selections will displease many and whether the writer is at all qualified to compile such as list will be questioned. Ridicule and contempt is sure to follow.

I do this to celebrate those that are willing to look past the wanna-be-celebrity choked road paved with pyrite. The Great Ones bent Nashville to their ways or took refuge in other regions far from the industry, Bakersfield California,  Austin Texas, to ply their wares. The Music Row road is not an easy one, it’s just crowded with sheep and the destination is less interesting.

Here’s to the on’ry, ragged, dusty dreamers.

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10) Hank Williams III – “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” (Sidewalk Records) -The man with a country music royalty pedigree, and an arguable entitlement to the moniker “Man In Blacker,” burns the middle-of-the-road with another custom hot-rod release. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

9) Jamey Johnson – “That Lonesome Song” (Mercury Nashville) –  Jamey Johnson does more than redeem himself for helping to pen Trace Adkins maga-seller Honky Tonk Badonkadonk with this brilliant release born of hard living and a love of Waylon Jennings and George Jones.  Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

8)  Sara Cahoone – “Only As The Day Is Long” (Sub-Pop) – Former rock drummer Cahoone has created a melancholy-shoegaze-Americana masterpiece with her rainy-day ready debut release.  Amazon | MySpace | Sub-Pop

7)  Star Anna – “Crooked Path” (Malamute Records) –  On this smoldering debut of Americana-noir Ellensburg, Washington’s Star Anna Krogstie proves she can hold her own with Lucinda Williams and Neko Case. Her voice seems to be the shear definition of longing and heartache.  AmazonMySpace | Official Site

6) Hang Jones – “The Ballad of Carlsbad County” (Self Released) – Hang Jones is the alias for Stephen Grillos and his concept album, set in 1887 New Mexico, takes the typical elements – lust, jealousy, whiskey, gunpowder and blood – and works his gritty magic to deliver a great album.  AmazonMySpace | Official Site

5) Luke Powers – “Texasee” (Phoebe Claire) – Powers stated in an interview that Texasee is a study of a mythical place that lies between Nashville and Austin and is done in a style reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah. Sign me up! Writers in the Western genre celebrate a few that are seen as more “literary.”  Powers like Tom Russell, James McMurty, John Prine and Joe Ely, occupies the mirror space in music.  CD Baby | MySpace | Pheobe Claire Site

4) Felice Brothers (Team Love) -From from the Catskill Mountains to the subways of New York city these actual brothers (and a bass player named Christmas) channel the Basement Tapes and spin  magnificently dark tales of desperation and violence. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

3) O’Death –  “Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin” (Kemado) – New York’s O’Death is a concoction of parts that if mixed any other way would result into a noxious mess.  Appalachian Mountain music,  Gypsy music, Gothic punk, funk and metal, it all just shouldn’t play nice together. On Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin the sounds meld magnificently in a dark and volatile masterpiece.  Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

2) Justin Townes Earle – “The Good Life”  (Bloodshot) -Before technology allowed us to cheat, musicians were the source of musical synthesis, or what is referred to by the hipsters today as mash-ups. Justin Townes Earle harkens back to these aural alchemists and has created a potent blend of 19th century folk, country swing and hillbilly boogie. Overcoming his Daddy’s long musical shadow (and his inclination towards illicit substances) Justin Townes Earle’s first full length release rejoices in heritage while transcending its creators youth.  Amazon | MySpace | Bloodshot Records

1) Eleven Hundred Springs – “Country Jam” (Palo Duro Records) – If you want a crash course in the best Texas country music over the last half-century the 2008 release from Dallas’ ESL would be a great place to start. From the hillbilly poetry of Mickey Newbury and Joe Ely to the Western Swing of Bob Wills to the pop and rock of  Doug Sahm and Buddy Holly all the influences are there.  And though the sounds are reflective of the Texas greats  ESL makes it distinctly their own on this superior homage to the Lone Star State. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

Honorable Mention:

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creations Dark
The Whipsaws – 60 Watt Avenue
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Cipher
Caitlin Rose –  Dead Flowers
The Power of County  – See You In Rock and Roll Heaven
Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
Kathy Mattea – Coal
The Wildes – Ballad of a Young Married Man
Hayes Carll – Trouble In Mind
Joey + Rory – The Life Of A Song
Kasey Chambers and Shane – Rattlin’ Bones
Ashton Shepherd – Sounds So Good
The Steeldrivers – Self-Titled
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s – Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels

Hank III Confirmed Tour Dates

Straight from the wrong side of the tracks (www.hank3.com) comes news that Hank Williams III has some early 2009 tour dates in support of his latest offering Damn Right Rebel Proud. Those Poor Bastards will support. Let the hell raising begin.

Feb 15 – New Orleans LA – House of Blues

Feb 17 – Houston TX – Meridian

Feb 18 – Austin TX – Antones

Feb 20 – Ft Worth TX – Longhorn Ballroom

Feb 21- Lubbock TX – Jakes

Feb 22 – Albuquerque NM – Sunshine Theater

Feb 23 – Tempe AZ – The Marque

Feb 24 – San Diego CA – 4th & B

Feb 26 – Las Vegas NV – House of Blues

Record Review – Hank III – Damn Right, Rebel Proud (Sidewalk Records)

There’s a lot of things you can say about Shelton Hank Williams III, he’s profane, his lyrics are simplistic, he advocates substance abuse and a destructive lifestyle – my money would be that he would look you in the eye, give you smile and spit on your shoes.

The newest release by Hank III “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” follows the same breakneck path his last album “Straight to Hell” took us. Barrels of whiskey, bales of pot, cocaine, scraped knuckles, black eyes and gratuitous hell raising are the order of the day. And if it’s too loud (or fast) get the hell off the road.
The album wastes no time bolting from the chute with the arm jerker “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)” which could be considered the rallying song for the “Reinstate Hank” campaign which Hank III

Hank Williams III

spearheads. The tune levels a bead at the beloved Nashville institution for keeping Hank III’s grandfather, Hank Sr. off it’s membership (though he was the first performer to receive six encores at the Opry, in August, in 1942, the Opry’s WSFA fired him due to “habitual drunkenness.” Despite this firing the Opry continues to use the name and likeness of Hank Williams Sr. in promotional materials.) Name checking Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Martin, and III’s daddy, Hank Jr. (aka Bocephus)  III leaves no one wondering where he comes down on the issue.

The songs cover the familiar country music terrain of hard living and wild times – “Wild & Free,” “Me & My Friends,” and the honky-tonk moshers “Six Pack Of Beer” and “Long Hails & Close Calls,” the latter’s spirit owes as much to thrash metal (III played bass with Superjoint Ritual, a New Orleans metal band formed by Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo) as it does Bill Monroe.

But it’s not all raising hell, fun and guns. Hank III is man that makes no apologies for his life choices and celebrates the causalities left in his Knowing this makes songs like “I Wish I Knew,” a stand lament for a lost love and the choices made that drove her away, along with “Candidate For Suicide” and “Stoned And Alone” all show III moving toward more reflective themes and a broadening his narratives and, yes, show he’s getting older.

III’s voice has always had a haunting, keening quality that harkins back to his grandad and skipped over his daddy’s baritone delivery. The whole package is perfectly held together by III’s passion and the crack band, especially Andy Gibson on steel guitar and Dobro and Johnny Hiland on lead guitar, which leaves most country, as well as punk and metal bands, in the dust.

iTunes has “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” classified under rock (It’s now been moved under the country music section), maybe it’s all the profanity that runs through the album that got it booted to another area. This release is just as deserving of the country music moniker as the pop-country fodder – Kenny, Toby, Carrie and Taylor – glutting the country section of iTunes country music section. For spirit alone it’s more deserving than most of what is found in any online classification, on the mainstream radio country charts and the mainstream country music industry at large (III;s label, Curb Records, declined to put their name on it, instead reviving the Sidewalk Records imprint to keep a safe distance from it.) Seems Hank III, like his legendary Granddad before him, is seen as a black sheep. Here’s to the rebels.

Hank III – “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfgLw617EXc[/youtube]

Hank III “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” On Line Listening Station

Looks like Mike Curb is going to do right by Hank III and release his new album on the originally slated date. For those of you that just can’t wait for tomorrow’s release of Hank Williams IIIDamn Right, Rebel Proud” head over to the online listening station and hear the release in it’s entirety. Let me say that again, entirity.

Hank III – Damn Right, Rebel Proud EPK

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKd2UPiSsWc[/youtube]

Hank III Video Premier – “Long Hauls and Close Calls”

Presenting the Hank III Exclusive World Premier Video of “Long Hauls and Close Calls” from the forthcoming new release “DAMN RIGHT, REBEL PROUD” in stores on 10/21 in CD and Double Vinyl format.
I’m posting this as a mirror to the Record Store Day web site which broke the video first.

Hank III – “Long Hauls and Close Calls”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKCD5ivFFzQ[/youtube]