Hank Williams III
Label: Curb Records
Release date: May 17th, 2011
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz
Hillbilly Joker is dirty, loud, obnoxious, and full of pig grunts and gun shots. Hank III never did intend to continue any sort of tradition from his fathers; he became more of an antichrist in the family tree, the adversary. Country music is mostly utilized to romanticize and generalize the South, compartmentalize it into categories and produce the culture that allows it to exist. Hank III is the underbelly that country is meant to cover up. Instead of carrying some torch and upholding tradition, he re-thought it and became part of a conversation with it, maybe an argument. He describes his sound as rebel country, which I take to mean that he is using country to rebel against its traditions. He is expressing a truer picture of what it is like to grow up in the South, as well as in the shadow of others.
“If you don’t like our hillbilly sound, hey man go fuck you,” is all Hank III has to say to his dad and his granddaddy. Shit, his other project is a stoner metal group called Super Joint Ritual and features ex-Pantera singer Phil Anselmo. The backing band for Hank III is only soft in comparison to SJR; their sound is like Jesus Lizard with more redneck attitude and metal proclivities. This is for southern stoner metal freaks who aren’t afraid to be judged, as well as for everyday chuds who like Click Click Boom. Hell, I’m Drunk Again sounds exactly like Click Click Boom.
It’s hard to give an earnest opinion on this album knowing the story behind it. It is the last release on a label that Hank III has been having trouble with ever since they refused to release his album of punk songs. I was hoping that some of them would be sneaked in on this album, but the songs tend towards slow metal when they’re done being country. The only punk thing about these songs is Hank III’s attitude. He has encouraged fans not to buy this album, but instead to burn or download it. Statements like that make me nervous, because I can’t determine if he’s telling his fans that he didn’t even try on this album, or is he just so pissed at the label that he no longer cares about the album, even though he put so much work into it? No fan likes to know that they’ve been duped.
Of course, I’m going to judge this album anyway, 'tis my job. I think it’s pretty damn rockin'. Most major releases by names as big as Hank III don’t hit so hard and with so much weirdness. You will be very tired of pig and donkey samples by the end of this CD — unless you find that you are turned on by them, in which case you should call a therapist, police officer, or farm. Seriously though, the metal from Assjack and SJR have overflowed onto Hank’s band even more, and the pissed off punk behind the mic is angrier than he’s ever been. You may just have to get over some redneck cheesiness to not feel ridiculous blasting this record.
Look to Hillbilly Joker for some raucous, good fun, but not much else. This record is all attitude and bite with nothing underneath.