The Hank Williams family Country music legacy is fairly remarkable when you consider how three generations of men have built up audiences that would likely stand aghast at one another. Hank Williams, Sr., is a founding father of Country and Honky Tonk Music as we know it and, rightfully so, a certified historical figure, institutionally and critically bestowed with all the respect due our revered cultural heroes by the Time-Life crowd.
Hank “Bocephus” Williams, Jr., ol’ Senior’s son, dabbled a bit in the “Outlaw” side of things but is generally frowned upon perhaps not by the Nashville establishment so much as by the up-tight, professorial “appreciators” of music (those aforementioned acknowledgers of Hank Sr.). These are the people who would likely take exception to Bocephus’ commercial approach and his affiliation with the Republican Party. He campaigned for McCain, after all, altering the lyrics of “Family Tradition” to “McCain-Palin Tradition” at a rally here in Ohio. He also did the theme song for “Monday Night Football.” But the people who do like Junior are the people who would appreciate his mainstreaming of the Country sound, his addition of Rock and Blues to the mix. In short, your average Joe-Plumber, football-watching Young Country fans—and probably Republicans, as if that matters.
And then there’s Hank III, Bocephus’ son and Senior’s grandson, who would probably just piss off all of the above. His songs don’t really deviate too far from the traditional Country structures that his father and grandfather have exercised so well over the years. It’s just that musically, everything’s sped up with far more intensely ca-chunk-ca-chunking rhythms—and the lyrical themes are clear as day.
So Hank III makes postmodern, post-apocalyptic Country Rock for the rest of us, I suppose. And that’s what makes him the King of Outlaw Country. With a nod to the tenets of the Punk movement and its love of total liberation via self-destruction, he’s a big fan of schlocky shock-rocker G.G. Allin. But he also worships blue-collar heroes as disparate as Black Flag (his own logo is the four bars minus one), Johnny Cash and his own father and grandfather.
Hank III played on Wednesday night at Bogart’s (which, incidentally, has turned into a fascistic cattle-processing plant resembling some kind of barbaric, third-world airport more than a fun concert venue). Texan Honky Tonker Lucky Tubb, a younger dude himself, opened the set and kicked up a hoedown’s worth of classic, uptempo Country music of the finest order.
Hank III followed shortly thereafter, long, stringy hair tucked back behind his cowboy hat (firmly planted at a rakish angle, natch). Perhaps because he eschews the aviator sunglasses, facial hair, and extra pounds that his father enjoys, he cut a striking resemblance to the original Hank Williams. Like a pro, Hank III pandered to the crowd proletarian-style, celebrating the fact that all the "skaters, the Country fans, and the kids in black shirts" could come together on a work night and enjoy some root-tootin' tunes. He strummed his guitar and delivered nasally manifestos about drinking, smoking and surviving while his backing band whipped up a whirlwind of breakneck Honky Tonk behind him. It was solid but not groundbreaking. The most exciting part of the set was the arc of killer covers near the end: Senior’s “I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive,” Junior’s "Family Traditions,” and Cash’s “Cocaine Blues.” Two iterations of Hank III’s alter-ego group, Assjack, played for the next hour and a half, calling down a maelstrom of nondescript but still raucous Hardcore Punk Metal.
The most fascinating parts of the concert (especially for a bratty, snooty music writer) were twofold: First, the audience, a bunch of awesome, sweaty, grabby, drunken, fun-loving, tattooed rednecks, smelled great! Believe it or not, I didn’t once detect a hint of B.O., foot or ass. In fact, the most I caught was a couple wafts of coconut oil, of all things! People smell worse at a preppy Indie Rock show. Who’da thunk a bunch of flannel-clad, punked-up, sleeveless-shirted Country Punk fans would clean up so good?
Second, the crowd was made up of nice people; even when the crack Gestapo security team of chubby little Eichmanns hired by Livenation (d/b/a Bogart’s) to police the show were shouting at concertgoers to “Get out of the hallways!” and “HEY! Get your ticket scanned if you wanna go smoke!” or “NO! You can’t get back in!” (directly after “scanning” the same person “out”), they responded politely and didn’t start shit. No easy task when faced with such friendly customer service.