Review Summary: Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?
In case you haven’t noticed, Country music is mostly about booze. Sure, tales of rural warfare, crop dusters, dogs, fishin’, huntin’, fighting, failing tremendously hard with women, your pappy, your grandma, and that cheatin’ b*tch you’re shacking up with abound, but when you really get down to the guts of it, country is about drankin’. A lot. Possibly the coolest part about Country, and we are talking about REAL Country, is that its legends actually live the lifestyles mentioned in the thematic overtones of their songs. Unlike false machismo found in most Hip-Hop, I mean, if you challenged Dre to a fight he would probably run screaming for his mommy or bitchslap a female that doesn’t like his records, country dudes tell the truth. Johnny Cash talked a lot about being a total a$$hole, and guess what, for the majority of his life, he was. George Jones could structurally support the Empire State Building with his gnarled, shriveled liver, and holy sh*t, about 85% of his songs are about grain alcohol. Hank Williams Sr. was a soak of epic proportions, as proven by drinking himself to death by the age of 29, and wouldn’t you know it, his most famous song is about crying into a cold one.
Perhaps wanting more than anything to emulate the astonishing level of DRUNK his daddy was, Hank Williams JR/altar ego "Bocephus" took the tried and true country alcohol obsession to the next level. Considering the absurd levels of booze this man has imbibed the fact Hank JR is still alive is a New Testament level miracle. It’s a damn good thing Hank Jr’s liver is roughly 547,875 times stronger than his pappy’s, because if it wasn’t beyond the reaches of all human biological capacity, we would not have been graced with his first Greatest Hits album, an absolute ACHIEVEMENT in the annals of Country n’ Western.
The reason we’re talking about a Greatest Hits album is pretty simple. Facing facts, old country is not about albums. It was about 45’s, or old school singles, and “albums” were usually a concoction with 2 or 3 good songs and an absolute avalanche of sh*t. Sure, Hank Jr has about 45 Greatest Hits compilations, and a lot of them are quite frankly littered with overwhelmingly atrocious filler, yet his first effort is the most focused, and by far the greatest single “album” he released. First, there isn’t a single song on here that doesn’t mention alcohol in some way, shape or form, which means this as legit as any country release ever conceived. More importantly, it has four of the 25 greatest country songs ever recorded (Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound, All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down, Family Tradition, Country Boy Can Survive), the latter two arguably landing in the top 5. Although country staples like “Kaw-liga,” “Dixie on My Mind” and “Texas Women” don’t quite stand up to the album’s pillars, all are leagues better than roughly 99% of the pop-tart river of feces currently emanating out of Nashville. Aside from Hank wanting you to know that he could easily drink you’re a$$ under the table, he also puts on a clinic of what real country music is supposed to sound like.
Whether Hank is waxing about sweet home Ala-BAM, songs about rambling dudes who suck back cold ones, how country plowboys can kick the asses of urban cowboys, exactly why he rolls so much God Damn smoke, and his life partner, Ol’ Jim Beam, this is as "Country" as a Country album can get. If you can stand a little Honky-Tonk here and a whole sh*t load of Redneck references there, you will undoubtedly label this a classic. When you need a song to define Country Music, reach for the dusty chords of “Country Boy Can Survive” or the overpowering Steel-Guitar swank of “Family Tradition.” Maybe there is just a need for something to get rip-roaring drunk to, or maybe you’re an urban limp-wrister who realizes it would have been way more bad-a$$ to have been raised in the dirty South, pining for camping out with a huntin’ rifle, a coon hound, and a case of Schlitz. Hank doesn’t apologize for being a drunken redneck of astonishing proportions, and more importantly, he makes it sound pretty damn cool. The easiest way he can tell you all about it is putting this album together, and if we face facts, most of us have a little Bocephus in us. It’s about time we embrace it.