STRAIGHT TO HELL - Hank Williams III (Bruc)
His grandfatther was legendary. As his given name is Shelton, you might think changing it to "Hank" and adding "the Third" to the end was some sort of cash-in (just like his Dad), but a listen to the music on "Straight to Hell" might change your mind about Hank Williams III.
"Straight to Hell" is a double CD released in two different editions. One might be viewed the "dirty version", oozing anti-contemporary country music attitude (and profanity) and a "clean edition, where the diatribes are toned down. This is Hank III's third album, following "Risin' Outlaw" and "Lovesick Broke and Driftin'". It also comes after his involvement in the documentary on the life of his grandfather, "Honky Tonk Blues", and appearances on both the Hank Williams (Sr) tribute album (2001's "Timeless") a live CD by Texan artist Dale Watson. Fittingly, it's on a song called "Country, My Ass". There are numerous other recording projects.
Like its predecessors, "Straight to Hell" is, for the most part, an autobiography (with reference to both his father and grandfather, some will argue). The medley of "Satan is Real"/'Straight to Hell' opens disc one and is an intriguing combination of the classic old time country waltz with sweet harmonies. "Satan is Real" borrows from The Louvin Brothers' own recording of this tune, but it turns modern with "Straight to Hell". A satanic growl summons the band into an up-tempo honky-tonk country tune. It's one of 10
originals out of the thirteen songs on disc one, many recxalling Hank III's alcohol and/or drug-fuelled, hell-raising lifestyle, most of it spent in bars.
"Thrown Out of the Bar" is a logical extension of those good times. "Things You Do to Me" shifts the tempo down and turns the topic to relations with certain kinds of women. It's augmented by more killer honky-tonk country sound, courtesy of a band featuring Randy Kohrs and Andy Gibson (steel guitar), Donnie Herron (fiddle), Travis "Skunky" Gillespie (Harmonica), Joe Buck (stand-up bass /
accordian) and Shawn McWilliams (drums).
"Country Heroes" delves into Hank Williams III's thoughts on the contemporary country music establishment, where he clearly finds no inspiration whatsover from his peers. Hank III can only "get wasted" with, or on, the music of (and to a slightly lesser extent, the lifestyles) of country legends George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash (RIP) and Waylon Jennings (RIP). Here, he also proves here he's no slouch on guitar, by playing all the parts with the exception of the steel guitar, which is delivered by Andy Gibson.
"D Ray White' is a departure of sorts, in which Hank tells us the story of D Ray White - which is all hard livin' and hard times. "Low Down', "Pills" and "Smoke & Wine" continue to explore Hank's hell-bent, self destructive kind of lifestyle involving plenty of alcohol, cigarettes, prescription medicine and illicit drugs and the emotional and health effects. "My Drinking Problem" has Hank telling us of his drinking problem, which has not yet begun (again), but which left (drinking problem) when the missus decided to leave him.
"Dick in Dixie" gives flight to Hank's thoughts on modern-day country music and The Establishment ( "pop country...really sucks", "a bunch of fucking shit" and acts are "busy kissing ass on Music Row" in Nashville, Tennesse).
Disc two of "Straight to Hell" begins with 'Louisiana Stripes' a murder ballad whereby Hank describes a lengthy and inevitable period of detention
in the Louisiana State Penitentiary thanks to his murder (by shotgun) of his wife, which led to spending several years of hard time on the inside.
A lengthy second track follows, where soundbites of fast moving trains and horses, gunshots and religious preaching overlays Hank Williams III
alone with his guitar, playing some songs of his own and of others (including his grandfather) with a guest spot from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
"Straight to Hell" provides ample proof that the varied and less cherished elements of the legend and legacy of Hank Williams (Sr) shall never die and have well and truly survived through his grandson Hank Williams III. - Simon Li
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