Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Steve Ter­rell

The prodi­gal grand­son

Call this one Hank III’s “con­trac­tual obli­ga­tion” al­bum.

Rebel Within, the fifth al­bum on Curb Records by the grand­son of the sainted Hank Wil­liams, has plenty to like, and there’s noth­ing re­ally bad on it. Still, it lacks the punch of most his pre­vi­ous works, es­pe­cially 2006’s Straight to Hell. This one has the feel of an odds ’ n’ sods out­takes record.

I’m not ex­actly sure how a rad­i­cal trou­ble­maker like Hank III — whose heart lies in the world of hard­core punk as much if not more than in that of coun­try mu­sic — ever got hooked up with a la­bel like Curb in the first place. True, young Hank’s dad, Hank Wil­liams Jr., has recorded on Curb for years. But by most re­ports, Hank III has long been es­tranged from Ju­nior — who calls Kid Rock his “rebel son.”

Curb your en­thu­si­asm: The com­pany is run by Mike Curb, a po­lit­i­cal con­ser­va­tive and for­mer lieu­tenant gover­nor of Cal­i­for­nia. He was also a mu­si­cian, head­ing a vo­cal group called The Mike Curb Con­gre­ga­tion. The MCC pro­vided back­ground vo­cals for the Sammy Davis, Jr. hit “The Candyman” and had a hit of its own with “It’s a Small World” — yes, the theme from the Dis­ney­land ride. The Con­gre­ga­tion also backed Hank Jr. on the pre-out­law-coun­try schlock hit “All For the Love of Sun­shine.” Back in 1970, when he was head of MGM and Verve Records, Curb gained na­tional no­to­ri­ety for drop­ping 18 acts from the la­bel, in­clud­ing The Vel­vet Un­der­ground, for sus­pected drug use.

It’s not sur­pris­ing that a self-de­scribed hell-raiser and vo­cal ad­vo­cate for drinkin’, drug­gin’, and — at least at one point a few years ago — devil wor­ship would knock heads with some­one like Mike Curb. Curb and Hank III have been in­volved in sev­eral law­suits through the years. The com­pany didn’t want to re­lease a record by the singer’s punk band, Ass­jack. That’s cer­tainly their pre­rog­a­tive. But, in an ex­am­ple of pure mu­sic-in­dus­try evil, Curb also fought hard to keep Hank III from tak­ing it to an­other la­bel or re­leas­ing it on his own. The com­pany even got a court or­der stop­ping the artist from sell­ing self-burned copies of Ass­jack CDs at his shows. As Hank III and The Lou­vin Broth­ers would say, “Satan is real.”

Hank III re­sponded by sell­ing T-shirts at his con­certs em­bla­zoned with the mes­sage — I’m para­phras­ing here — “Darn Curb!” He also re­fuses to sell his Curb CDs at his shows.

Back to the record: But maybe the slap­dash, so-long-Curb-Records na­ture of Rebel Within isn’t the only the rea­son for the more sub­dued spirit of the al­bum. Some songs here deal di­rectly with the con­se­quences of non­stop par­ty­ing, crazy in­dul­gence, and ad­dic­tion. If Straight to Hell and Damn Right, Rebel Proud were par­ties, this one is the han­gover.

The first song is called “Get­tin’ Drunk and Fallin’ Down.” And, like other songs on the al­bum, such as “Lost in Ok­la­homa” and “Drinkin’ Ain’t Hard to Do,” it’s more about fallin’ down than it is about the joys of get­tin’ drunk. “It’s the kind of liv­ing that’s go­ing to put me in the ground,” he moans. And you be­lieve him.

In the ti­tle song Hank sings “The more I try to do right it just seems wrong/I guess that’s the curse of liv­ing out my songs.” This is an ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence to a line from a fa­mous tune by his dad: “Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?”

Then there’s “#5,” a slow honky-tonker with heart­break fid­dle and sob­bing steel gui­tar. It’s about quit­ting, or at least want­ing to quit, heroin. “This is the last time the nee­dle’s go­ing in to try to set my soul free,” he sings. “I’ve done had four friends die around me/Now I re­al­ize that old num­ber five just might be me.” (In an in­ter­view on Out­law Ra­dio Chicago, Hank said that in real life, he has never smoked crack or shot heroin.)

“Tore Up and Loud” is more like the Hank III of yore, both in con­tent and in sound. It’s full of dis­torted vo­cals and psy­chobilly rea­son and ends with an ob­scene rant about be­ing free (tem­pered by a sly “shave-and-a-hair­cut” banjo riff).

In­deed, don’t think Hank III has lost his sense of hu­mor. The al­bum ends with a wild hill­billy romp called “Drinkin’ Over Mama.” But it’s not your typ­i­cal coun­try mama song. Here mama starts drink­ing at the age of 61, and she gets killed “by her own crack pipe.”

It’s sure go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to see what Hank III comes up with next, now that he’s out of the Curb cage. Check out www.hank3.com/ me­dia.htm.

Also rec­om­mended

Too Drunk to Truck by Six­tynin­ers. In the tra­di­tion of their Voodoo Rhythm la­bel mates The Wat­zloves and Zeno Tor­nado, this is a Euro­pean band — from the Nether­lands, to be ex­act — that loves good old Amer­i­can honkytonk mu­sic. But like those other acts (and Hank III, for that mat­ter), the Six­tynin­ers love it enough not to get too rev­er­ent about it. The ti­tle song, for in­stance, is a play on a clas­sic by The Dead Kennedys. And “Live­stock” is an an­i­mal party that starts out with barn­yard noises.

Six­tynin­ers, led by singer/gui­tarist Michiel Hov­ing and drum­mer Clau­dia Hek, play some cov­ers here — a spir­ited “John Hardy” sung by Hek, a stomp­ing take on Ge­orge Jones’ “The Race Is On,” and a fun “Al­most Done,” a song that has ap­peared un­der var­i­ous guises, such as Lead­belly’s “On a Mon­day” or, slightly al­tered, as Johnny Cash’s “I Got Stripes.” Here it’s done with a shuf­fling beat and cool trom­bone. The band even evokes mem­o­ries of Jerry Jeff Walker on “Ter­lin­gua,” the pretty tune that closes the al­bum. And they can do some crazy blues too, like the Bo Did­dley-es­que “Hell” and “Play Dead,” in which the gui­tar sounds like a punkier ver­sion of Duane All­man.

Check out www.voodoorhythm.com/six­tynin­ers.html.

Brand new Big En­chi­lada episode: My lat­est pod­cast is called “For­bid­den Cav­ern Fan­dango” and fea­tures songs by Bar­rence Whit­field & The Sav­ages, King Cole­man, Gas Huf­fer, Manby’s Head, plus a set of su­per Ja­panese punk rock. There are now 27 hours of shows at www.bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com — all free.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.