Hank Williams III
Damn Right, Rebel Proud


4.0
excellent

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
October 29th, 2008 | 21 replies | 8,665 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Damn Right, Rebel Proud is brutally, self-deprecatingly, honest and musically inspired.

Hank Williams III (III to his fans; Shelton to his momma) likens the way he records his music to a moonshiner making alcohol: what it lacks in smoothness and clarity, it more than makes up for in brute strength and purity.

While Sean Lennon and the Jakob Dylan have spent most of their adult lives desperately trying to escape the massive shadows cast by their fathers, III has chosen to take his famous name head-on. Having spent much of his early twenties drumming on the Arkansas heavy rock circuit, Williams got hit with a hefty child support bill and was forced to cash in on his famous name, shopping himself around to labels as Hank Williams the Third. He was signed to Curb Records, the long-time home of his father Hank Williams Jr., and in 1996 the pair released Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, superimposing their own vocals over original recordings of some of Sr.’s best-loved recordings. Three Hanks is a record III has since disowned and, when the release failed to hit pay dirt, Williams pulled a complete about-turn. He rediscovered the rebellious country music of his father and grandfather and began to mix it up with his own core influences, punk rock and heavy metal. In the years since, III has come to embody the outlaw spirit of Hank Williams, of Johnny Cash and David Allan Coe: artists who have succeeded despite the system rather than because of it.

Which segues nicely into Damn Right, Rebel Proud’s rousing opener, the sublimely-titled ‘The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand Anymore).’ As the granddaddy of country broadcasting, the Grand Ole Opry’s prestige has taken a hammering in recent decades, a process of decay that began when it dissolved Hank Williams’ membership in 1952 until such a time as he learned to control his alcoholism and drug intake. Obviously he never did, and the Opry has steadfastly refused to reinstate him ever since (even in an honourary capacity, as only living musicians are eligible for membership). ‘The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand Anymore)’ is III, essentially, calling bullshit on the Opry’s admissions policy. The track’s nervous tension and explosive energy kick the album off on just the right note, with banjos blaring and bluegrass guitar licks fluttering with breakneck speed and precision, while III’s simple lyrics cut right to the core of the issue. He sings, ”The Grand Ole Opry ain’t so grand anymore / Did you know Hank Williams ain’t a member but they keep him outside their door / Hell they didn't even really want Johnny Cash back in '74 / Yeah the Grand Ole Opry ain't so grand anymore" Those familiar with III’s records will notice how he’s progressed as a writer from the juvenile rumblings of ‘Dick In Dixie’ without losing any in the way of righteous indignation. Elsewhere, it’s more or less business-as-usual for Hank Williams III: his music is primarily fast-paced country rock, helped by his natural rural Arkansas twang, infused with a healthy punk snarl and rockabilly rhythms that are as distinctive as they are predictable. There is the lingering sense that III’s heart isn’t fully in the country dealie, though he’s more than adept at it, and Damn Right, Rebel Proud’s best moments generally come when he subtly subverts genre conventions and injects a little heavy metal lawlessness into the equation. ‘P.F.F.,’ all ten minutes of it, is a grand tribute to legendary nutjob G.G. Allin: essentially the same track played twice- once fast and once slow- with a spoken word interlude. The second half, the mid-tempo country part, would probably be better served appended to the end of the album, but the front portion is a beautiful marriage of bluegrass and oi! punk. Lead single ‘Long Hauls And Close Calls’ attempts to bridge the middle ground between latter-era Dylan and The Cramps, while Williams’ doomy, Sabbathesque take on the Sun Studios sound in ‘H8 Line’ is breathtaking.

III’s lyrics are arguably his biggest weakness, as he tends to fall back way too often on the hackneyed drunken recluse schtick, but they also provide some of the album’s best moments. On the deceptively upbeat ‘Wild & Free,’ he boasts, ”Livin' hard, wild and free is the life for me / And I'm always good friends with bad company / I drink all day just to get to feelin' right / And I'm just trying to get ahead in this reckless life.” ‘Six Pack Of Beer’ is about as close as Williams gets to replicating the mainstream country rock of Brad Paisley et al. (Joe Sixpack!), but even then his lyrics shout his individualism from the roofs: ”I'm gettin' real high, and I'm gettin' down low / And I live in a shack on creditor's row / and my best friend is my magnum ‘44” ‘If You Can’t Help Your Own’ is about as close as III gets to a political song, using his own family’s neglect at the hands of the Williams clan to the US government’s abandonment of its rural poor: ”I was raised by myself down in Arkansas / My family had some rich folks but they never called / If they wanna be that way then that's fine with me / 'Cos I ain't got a thing to say to a man filled with greed [...] If you can't even help your own / Well my friend one day you're gonna be all alone.”

Damn Right, Rebel Proud is by no means a perfect record- it’s as flawed as its maker, to make an easy comparison- but, despite its shortcomings, it’s brutally, self-deprecatingly, honest and musically inspired. Its crossover potential is huge, from the Black Crowes-like blues noodling of ‘If You Can’t Help Your Own’ to the everyman appeal of ‘Wish I Knew’ and closer ‘Workin’ Man’ (written and sung by Williams’ guitar tech Bob Wayne), and as a musician and a critic it’s always refreshing to come across an artist who’s unafraid to speak his or her mind. And Hank Williams III has plenty on his mind.



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user ratings (26)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2008



7984 Comments


Great review, Dave. I have always been very curious about Hank III's album output, because I have always been heard good things, but also apprehensive because with looks he seems very gimmicky.

I will check this out though, because you sold me on it, great work.

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


Just got into Sr, will have to give the grandson a go.

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


sometimes i wonder what motivates you, dave
you have such a limited audience on sputnik for the areas of music you're interested in

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2008



2670 Comments


$ometime$ i wonder what motivate$ you, dave

you have $uch a limited audience on $putnik for the area$ of mu$ic you're intere$ted in


Great review. Can't say I will touch this record anytime soon, though, sorry

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


rofl jom. rofl.

BallsToTheWall
October 30th 2008



44205 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweet. I was at best buy today and couldn't decide between this and the new Lordi album. I hesitated and didn't get either. I will come back though.

Digging: My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


You win at 10k balls... race you to 100

GO

lunchforthesky
October 30th 2008



1039 Comments


I gave this a shot. There's way too much of a rock/metal element for me. It reminds me of Avenged Sevenfold.

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


sometimes i wonder what motivates you, dave

you have such a limited audience on sputnik for the areas of music you're interested in

Sorry? I'm not quite sure I follow.

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


Sputnik is a community with a strong preference for non-radio/commercial music. I like to think of this place as a free market of ideas where no general state of mind dominates everyone's tastes (see pitchfork)
anywho, he's the type of guy that honestly liked the last brittany spears album so much that it was on his end of the year listThis Message Edited On 10.30.08

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


I don't really listen to the radio, though.
And I really liked the last Britney album, too.

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


well then i think you're one in a small collection of people here who can enjoy commercial music solely for how it sounds. very cool.

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


Haha, I wouldn't even know if it was "commercial" or not, unless it was completely obvious.
What brought that up, anyway? We're talking about a third generation country dude and you start talking to me about the radio?

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


just dave's preferences. this could fit under the umbrella of 'popular' music and dave is over that shiz like a fat kid on cheese wizz

lunchforthesky
October 30th 2008



1039 Comments



Sputnik is a community with a strong preference for non-radio/commercial music. I like to think of this place as a free market of ideas where no general state of mind dominates everyone's tastes (see pitchfork)
anywho, he's the type of guy that honestly liked the last brittany spears album so much that it was on his end of the year list


This place is just as bad for group think as any other site it's just we have several different groups of posters. For example all the metal fans jock the same records, the experimental fans do, the pop punk/post hardcore fans do, all the indie fans do.

We have a lot of posters who aren't this way but then a huge number who are.

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


Lolz, I thought you were talking to me the whole time; my bad.

brandtweathers
October 30th 2008



2007 Comments


i was. i didn't say a word to lunch.

AtavanHalen
October 30th 2008



17927 Comments


Haha, no brandt- at the very beginning under my first post. My name's Dave/David too.

Abaddon2005
March 6th 2009



684 Comments


album slaaaays.

BallsToTheWall
March 10th 2009



44205 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album is solid. Not too familiar with this style of music but I like this. Will probaly look into Hank I as well.



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