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I really didn’t know what to expect from The .357 String Band’s new album Lightning from the North. I mean, were they going to introduce some new sound? Of course not, they ARE the new sound. Were they going to throw down the best album I’d heard in years? They already did that with their last offering, Fire & Hail.
But this album held a few surprises and distinctions from Fire & Hail, and keeps them on their track of making exceptional albums, which is possibly the hardest task when you’re trying to follow up a marquee release.
The instrumentation on this album is more diverse than their previous two. At first listen I was surprised how much fiddle there was and went looking through the liner notes to see if maybe Donnie Herron was involved in the session, but none other than banjo man Joe Huber was responsible. Huber is putting himself up there with Herron and Chris Scruggs as a premier multi-instrumentalists in the movement. Add Billy Cook’s dobro work on top of his mandolin skills, and you have many tricks to flesh a song out with.
The “hit” of the album is Derek Dunn’s “Oh, Adeline,” which is one of those songs that sticks on your bones the first time you hear it and makes you paw for the replay button. It’s been said that there are not enough love songs in the current insurgent country scene, but .357 is an exception to that rule, and “Oh, Adeline” is an exceptional song in the .357 arsenal. The other standout in the Dunn offerings was “The Harvest Is Past” which has a very 20′s-esque swingy, shuffly punch that is a good shakeup in the middle of the album.
The two aforementioned songs are also standouts for the bass work done by Rick Ness, who drives the shape of “The Harvest Is Past” and has a knack for matching walking bass lines with Dunn’s slower tunes.
For me the standout track of the album is Joe Huber’s “The Day’s Engrave.” He’s responsible for some of the more rowdy songs on the album, including the title track, but this song for me highlights Joe’s unusually thematic and thick approach to some songs; a trait that is almost vacant in bluegrass or string music, esp. in music more noted for its high octane.
This one line struck me: “Your word against mine/Your God against my everything/My fist in your eye/And I don’t care if it don’t solve a goddamn thing”. . . “All my pages are fingerstained/And though my heart is still pumpin’/Across my face . . . how the days engrave.”
Speaking of themes, the album starts off with a very Milwaukee feel, but the Southerners don’t need to grumble. After the well-done cover of Lee Fikes’ “Milwaukee, Here I come,” this thread ends, and if there was one theme throughout this album, I would say it is the weariness of road life. These guys write what they live, and live what they write. There is no effecting of voices or worn out, irrelevant old-timey terms or themes like in so much modern day “string” music. This is genuine music from genuine people.
If I were venture to guess, this album will not be named “Album of the Year” like I named their last album in 2008, though it might settle near the top. There’s not much to criticize, it’s just that the .357 String Band has settled into their sound now, and the experience of hearing them recorded is not as fresh. I have no doubt that if they keep beating the pavement like they have been, their following and fortune will only continue to grow.
Some other notes from the album: the recording engineer was Hank III’s steel player Andy Gibson, and the album was recorded in Andy’s house in Nashville. Bob Wayne also makes an appearance on Track 8 “producing.”
**UPDATE**UPDATE: Now available on CD Baby, where you can also preview all tracks: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/357stringband3.
Here’s a video of the title track from Mr. Bandana on YouTube:
In the last few years, many new bands have sprung up in the new school Outlaw country scene. Some good, and some . . . well . . . not so good.
Some of these new bands seem to understand that addiction and the fight with inner devils and outer devils has been a theme of country music since its inception. And others just want to ape Hank III songs by shoehorning “The Devil! Whiskey! The Devil! Whiskey! Cocaine!” into as many titles and worn out choruses and chord progressions as they possibly can, missing the whole point.
Whether Reno, Nevada’s Hellbound Glory actually get this inherent addiction theme, or if they’re just so damn good at pulling the music off it doesn’t matter, they have risen to near the top of the hard Outlaw country sect as far as quality.
It also helps when bands just don’t sit around in their basement bitching about the state of country music keeping them down, but actually get out there are try to do something about it. You have to pay some attention to the business side, you have to get out there and tour, and you have to let the media know what you’re doing. With Hellbound Glory its check, check, and check! Here’s some verbage from the official press release about their new album Old Highs and New Lows, available On CD or for download:
“This is the second release for the band with punk n’ roll label Gearhead Records, but is actually the third record they’ve recorded. “The songs on this record are a mixture of brand new tracks, and re-recorded tracks from their first self-released out of print record,” says label owner Michelle Haunold. “The band was never happy with the recording on that first album, so we took some of the best tracks from that out of print CD and updated them while they were in the studio recording the new material. They added banjo, pedal steel, and fiddle to all the tracks to give it that feel of classic old country, and it turned out great.”
” “We’re really excited about the new record and the additional musicians the helped flesh the sound out,” says lead singer and songwriter Leroy Virgil. “I’m really happy with the recording and can’t wait to get out there and play these songs for our fans.”
Hellbound Glory formed in 2004, playing original rebel country songs in the style of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams. The band has played over 300 shows since their first official record Scumbag Country, opening for such legends as David Allen Coe, Junior Brown, and Jesse Dayton as well as Wayne Hancock and Hank III.”
I might have some of my own verbage to add one I get a hard copy of the album in my hands, but until then you should check this band out, they’re worth your time. You can start with the videos below:
Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and half sister of Hank Williams III, signed the petition to Reinstate Hank Williams into the Grand Ole Opry after a show in Paradiso, Amsterdam earlier this week. After playing a set that included the Hank Sr. songs “I Saw The Light” and “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry,” Holly was approached by Reinstate Hank lieutenant Restless in Amsterdam who asked her to sign. Holly’s new husband and backing musician Chris Coleman signed as well.
Though not a big commercial success, Holly’s latest album Here With Me has had some critical acclaim, with The Boot naming it the #3 album of 2009, and The 9513.com calling it the #96 album of the decade.
Aside from Hank III who began the movement to Reinstate Hank, Holly is the only other direct blood relation to Hank Sr. to sign the petition. Hank Jr. has not signed, but recently after appearing at The Opry on January 8th, Hank Jr. sent Hank III a text message saying “I’m done with the Opry.” Hank III had been pleading with his father not to make the appearance to protest The Opry’s stance on not reinstating Hank Sr. Holly performed at The Opry on January 8th as well.
In the last year or two, many new artists and bands have sprung up in the Outlaw/ Underground country movement, many new fans, podcasts, etc. But this all would not be possible if it wasn’t for the hard work of a few musicians, the trunk of the tree from which these new branches have sprung so to speak.
One of these artists is Joe Buck. From sharing a stage and sleeping quarters with BR549 at the beginning of the neo-traditionalist movement, to becoming a venue owner on lower Broadway in Nashville, to being a sideman for JD WIlkes and Hank III, to now being the essence of the crossroads between punk and country, it is not hard to say that this whole movement would have a different flavor if not for Joe Buck.
This is just as much an interview as it is my attempt to document and preserve the few artists that are the very heart of insurgent country. If Music Row had it’s way, these people would disappear from the public consciousness, and the music they have devoted their lives to would be forgotten. It is our job to make sure their legacies are carried on to the next generation.
And Joe Buck is far from just being another musician, he has superlative wisdom and insight, and a unique perspective on life that deserves as much attention and preservation as the music he creates.
Just like my interview with Andy Gibson was, it is long, and is not for the faint of heart, but the hardcore fan. I mixed in some music as well when possible. The interview was conducted on Oct. 22nd, 2009, in Joe Buck’s motorhome, in the parking lot of a venue called Johnny B’s in Medford, OR, before a show also featuring The .357 String Band and The Slow Poisoner.
It’s about an hour long, so come back and give it a listen when you have the time.
A lot of you might already know this, but just to bring the new folks up to speed, Saving Country Music started as an organization of Hank Williams III fans called Free Hank III. In short, Free Hank III was started when III’s label Curb Records refused to release his last album Damn Right, Rebel Proud, after also holding up the album before that, Straight to Hell.
Whether you’re a fan of Hank III or not, major music labels taking advantage of artists is at the core of Saving Country Music. I’m not a big Ronnie Milsap fan, but when Capitol Records tried to stop him from releasing music I had no problems coming to his defense.
Well now Hank III has a new album on the horizon, named The Rebel Within, which is his last album with Curb before he can become an independent DIY artist as he has talked about doing. So a question I’ve been getting is, when is the new album set to be released? And when does Free Hank III need to get involved if Curb starts into it’s same dirty tricks?
There is no release date for the album yet, but Hank III turned in the artwork and masters for The Rebel Within on or around January 9th, according to an interview III did with Outlaw Radio (Episode 77) a few weeks back. On Outlaw Radio Episode 66, he said “It’s my last album with Curb so you never know, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that once I turn it in a clock will start ticking and they’ll have to let me go after 10, 11 months or something like that.” He also said on Outlaw EP 66 that he thought the album would be turned in by Nov. 1st, so obviously there was a hold up on Hank III’s part.
Nothing is for certain, but we may not see this album until the Fall or Winter of this year, if not later. We have to understand that it takes major labels many months to get an album from masters to store shelves, and this is no different with Hank III than it is for any other artist. What Free Hank III is concerned about is if they are taking an obviously longer amount of time than is necessary because of ulterior motives, like with his previous two albums.
Curb might also release a “Greatest Hits” album before they release the new material. That is what Curb did to Tim McGraw, and is a common stall move to squeeze as much money as possible out of an artist before releasing them.
If these things happen then it is out responsibility as Free Hank III members to be in full throat. And I’m happy to say that the bullhorn we have now is much bigger than it was 1 1/2 years ago.
For now I think we have to be fair with Curb and give them the time it normally takes to get a CD out. Hank III’s management said when a deal was struck for Damn Right, Rebel Proud that Mike Curb had a “change of heart,” and that we should lay off them. I think we should respect III’s management’s wishes until Curb gives us a reason not to.
Then it’s on like Donkey Kong.
Hank III has said that Mike Curb said to him “I just don’t know what to do with you,” so hopefully Mike Curb has stopped trying to mentor III by playing games with releasing his music, and decided that III is better left doing his own thing. Damn Right, Rebel Proud also charting #2 in the country charts upon its release also probably helped the Free Hank III cause.
So please stay in tune with Free Hank III. If you read on MySpace click “subscribe” in the upper left hand corner, or put savingcountrymusic.com in your RSS feed. And as soon as there is a release date, or a need to put pressure on Curb, I will make sure you are the first to know.
For more information on Free Hank III, go to freehank3.org.
As first reported here, the Music City Madman Joe Buck, the former guitarist for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and bassist for Hank III has signed with Century Media Records, and will be releasing his first official solo album through them.
Well now I can report that the album will be called Demon in my Head after the song of the same name, and is slated for an “early Fall” release. The album was recorded in Seattle at the Soundhouse Recordings studio over 10 days earlier this month, and the producer was the legendary Jack Endino who has produced albums for Nirvana, Zeke, Soundgarden, High on Fire, and hundreds more. Donny Paycheck of Zeke might have some involvement in the project as well. Also, it is confirmed that Keith Neltner will be doing the album art for the project.
From Joe Buck: “Its gonna give us a nice push and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got something to say. . . It ups the ante.”
The album will include new songs, as well as a few “hits” from his previous DIY releases. Just like his earlier releases, Joe Buck plays every note himself. Judd Films was on location during the studio recording to get footage for an upcoming EPK for the album, and was kind enough to share some exclusive photos with the rest of us.
And prior to being in Seattle to record, Joe Buck was in California, recording with his old buddy “Captain” Sean Wheeler of Throw Rag, so keep your eyes peeled for that project in the future as well.
So of course as soon as I decide to leave the real world for a few days, the REAL country news wires get hot. So I’m sitting here in a crude “internet” cafe in the small interior Mexico mountain town of Xilitia, feeding a gerbil that runs in a wheel that somehow gives me some crude and heroically slow version of the world wide internet, and I’m using my last few precious gerbil nibits to bring you the latest scoop in an admittedly concise and unsexy fashion.
Hank III West Coast Tour w/ Kyle Turley
Hank Williams III has just announced a West Coast/ Texas tour beginning in March, and the opener will be the former football player turned country singer Kyle Turley. To see the current list of dates CLICK HERE. More dates will probably show up later, but note that NO date is official until you see it on that site.
I will be attending at least one, if not more of these shows, and am really interested to see what the Kyle Turley show has to offer. Hope to see some of you out there. But for the next few days, I will be trying to enjoy my stay south of the border, and making sure I come back in one piece and not as part of some ransom bargain. So until then . . .
When Hank Williams III’s album Damn Right, Rebel Proud went to #2 in the charts last year, this was a significant development in the movement to Reinstate Hank Williams to the Grand Ole Opry because of the first track, “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand),” was a song protesting the Grand Ole Opry’s stance.
But believe it or not, this wasn’t the first song to call out the Opry for firing Hank and never reinstating him. That honor belongs to Hank Jr. and Waylon Jennings in the song, The Conversation. The chorus goes:
“Well back then they called him crazy, now days they call him a saint
Now the ones that called him crazy, are still ridin’ on his name
Back then they called him crazy, now a days they call him a saint
Most folks don’t know that they fired him from the Opry
And that caused his greatest pain
I’ve heard some criticize Hank Jr.’s music because it seems like he evokes his daddy’s name at nausea. On that point I would defend Jr., because you might talk at nausea about your daddy if he was Hank Williams too. But my question is if Hank Jr. feels like The Opry firing Hank Sr. caused him his greatest pain, and that the Opry is still riding off his name, why wouldn’t he at the least lend his John Hancock to the movement to reinstate him?
And where is the signature of Hank III’s half sister Holly, and Jr.’s sister Jett? I know the answer is simple: the politics of Nashville. Hank Jr., Holly and Jett all have reputations and careers to protect. But don’t they owe at least some, if not most of their career success to the Hank Williams name? There are over 42,000 signatures on the Reinstate Hank Petition and more on the physical petition, and only one from Hank Sr.’s immediate family.
And to do themselves one worse, on January 8th, Hank Jr. and Holly performed at the Grand Ole Opry; the place that “caused his (Hank Sr.) greatest pain” in Hank Jr.’s own words. This was against the wishes of Hank III, who has been boycotting the Opry since he started Reinstate Hank on the Opry stage during a Hank Williams tribute.
In some ways the Reinstate Hank movement seems stronger than ever. The signature numbers keep growing, and the word is spreading through a rabidly strong grass roots network. However to some Reinstate Hank means something more that just getting Hank Williams back in the Opry. It represents an element that is rife with swear words, drug references, and disrespect towards institutions. There are thousands of Hank Sr. fans who’ve probably never uttered a curse word, and would never be caught dead at a Hank III concert. The same reason Hank Jr.’s signature is not on the petition is probably the same reason theirs aren’t.
Hank III himself has said himself in interviews that his “Grand Ole Opry” song is “immature” and “may not be very helpful.” I think it helped greatly in some circles, but probably hurt in others. But the movement to Reinstate Hank is about something that everyone should be able to get behind, regardless of who started it. This movement is not about Hank III, it is about Hank Williams, and I think the movement would benefit from delineating that, and respecting any and all people whose common thread is a love for the music of Hank Williams.
Well there is some good news and some bad news in regards to the Outlaw Radio Chicago podcast. Bad news first: The network that it was broadcasting on live every Tuesday has apparently gone belly up. The good news is you can still listen to every episode at savingcountrymusic.com/outlaw-radio, and I will begin posting the podcasts on Tuesday nights at 9 PM in the regular Outlaw Radio time slot, at least until the podcast can find another network, or I can figure out how to broadcast it live here.
Even better news is that this week’s episode includes interviews and audio from Jashie P’s visit to Nashville to see Hank Williams III play at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. It is a special 80 minute-long episode that includes interviews with of course Hank III, steel player Andy Gibson, bassist Zach Shedd, and various semi-famous people who were also in attendance, including Cathy’s Reinstate Hank Bandwagon.
Part two of Jashie P’s Nashville junket will air next week, featuring Josh Hedley and Corey who play with (or used to) Justin Townes Earle.
And stay tuned on where and when you will be able to hear Outlaw Radio broadcast live in the future.
Hank Williams III continues his stint of Wednesday nights at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, and continues to make news and debut new songs.
This last Wednesday, former football player turned country artist Kyle Turley opened the show, and Hank III rolled out two new songs, “Moonshiner’s Blues” about Popcorn Sutton, and another called “Drinkin’ Ain’t Hard to Do.”
These two songs along with the two he debuted last week, are likely to be included on his upcoming album The Rebel Within. Hank III has also been dedicating his Layla’s shows to important people. The first show was dedicated to Mr. Bandana who has been suffering from some serious health issues. People who were not in attendance but want to help him can send money, valuables, nudes (femme only please), or whatever you have to BANDANA, 1462 MT.ZION CH.RD., IRON STATION NC 28080.
Last weeks show was dedicated to Mary Wallace who recently passed away. Mary was the President of the Hank Williams International Fan Club, and also the operator of the Hank Williams Museum in Alabama. You can read a great review of last week’s show and see some pictures from Cathy’s Reinstate Hank Bandwagon, and thanks again to Allison for the vids.
On Wednesday (12-16) Hank III began a run of Wednesday night shows at one of the last honky tonks left on Broadway in Nashville, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. These shows are unique to anything else Hank III does, because there is no cover charge, and you get sometimes over two hours of strictly country music. As Hank III says, this is his way of staying true to the roots of the music, and it also helps keep the last dying gasps of a live music scene alive in Nashville.
Hank III unveiled two new songs during his country set, and luckily Allison was there with camera rolling to capture them. The names are “Lost in Oklahoma” and “Looking for a Mountain.” You can also see some great still shots from the show on Cathy’s Page.
Oh, and another Hank III heads up: He will be taping an episode of the Marty Stuart show on RFD-TV in early February. No word on when the episode will air, but stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.
During his appearance last night on Outlaw Radio, Lucky Tubb announced plans for new albums, and new tours including opening for Hank III on a yet-to-be-announced March tour, and then his own tour of Europe this summer.
The new album will be called Hillbilly Fever and will include 13 tracks, including what Lucky calls “Tubb Treasures”: older songs from the Tubb legacy. One possible song is called “Tired of What You Do to Me” and another is called “Sure Look Lonesome.” He also talked about a Waylon Jennings-inspired song “Ramblin” and a song written by his squeeze and fiddle player Natalie Page Monson. Lucky also hinted about some “special guests” that might make an appearance on the album. He will be recording it this January, hoping to have it ready for sale before the Hank III tour, or at least before the European tour.
There’s also plans to release a bootleg album of recordings from his first tour with Hank III this summer that would be sold at upcoming Lucky shows. The bootleg would include duets with Hank III on songs like “Damn the Luck” and “Family Tradition,” some Wayne Hancock songs, and Lucky and Natalie’s duet of “Jackson.”
Lucky also talked extensively about the Tubb Family music writing history, and his friendship with Hank III.
“Shelton told me when I left the tour back in July, one of the things he said to me is that his fans will be loyal, and he’s never been wrong. The Hank III Army’s alive and well and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
There is a lot more great information from the interview, and you can listen or download it in its entirety at savingcountrymusic.com/outlaw-radio. Outlaw Radio is broadcast LIVE every Tuesday night at 9 PM central on punkandbeansradio.com.
Well it’s Sunday, and I know a lot of you spend your Sunday’s with a brat in one hand and a foam finger over the other, eyes affixed to the boob tube. But here’s a cool story I was just alerted to on the Saving Country Music Message Board, where two of your passions collide head on.
Former All-Pro offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints Kyle Turley is now trying to start a country music career. And unlike so many others that have “gone country,” it seems like he’s doing it for the right reasons: a passion for the music and not a penchant for a big payday. Apparently he met Hank III down in New Orleans a while back, and that led to hooking up at the AMA Nationals on Loretta Lynn’s Tennessee ranch in August. Turley used Hank III’s “Damn Band” as his own, and Hank III sat in on drums as well. Check it out:
There is nothing I take more serious then putting my name behind an album as being the best of any calendar year. Unlike some organizations who hand out such things to whoever can sell the most albums or show the most teen spirit, I understand that Albums of the Year set a precedent, and will act like guideposts for future generations to come back and discover the music that came before. That is why after careful consideration, I believe that Justin Townes Earle’s 2009 album Midnight at the Movies is the best album in regards to creativity, quality, and significance.
Justin Townes Earle has done an awesome thing with this album; he has figured out a way to unite all the displaced elements that make up the alternative to mainstream Nashville country, while still staying somewhat accessible to the mainstream folks as well. You might even catch the bluegrass folks nodding their head while listening to it. Folkies like it, and there’s a few tunes blues people can get into. This isn’t just the REAL country album of the year, it is the “Alt-country” album of the year and the “Americana” album of the year. In fact the Americana Music Association nominated it for “Album of the Year,” named Earle “Emerging Artist of the Year” and also nominated him for “Artist of the Year.”
But with all this accessibility, this is still a REAL country album with real country songs. “Poor Fool” is an instant country classic, and songs like “Black Eyed Suzy” and “Halfway to Jackson” are great examples of Earle’s unique approach to country that injects bluegrass and blues elements into neo-traditional textures. “Dirty Rag” is just a simple snippet of Justin with his guitar, highlighting is unique clawhammer banjo-like technique. Who does that kind of thing on albums these days? We need more of that.
“Mamas Eyes” and “Someday I’ll Be Forgiven For This” remind me that alt-country can be cool, and the title track “Midnight at the Movies,” though hard to call country or really put any label on it, is a masterpiece of perfectly dialed in textures and moods. This album has it all, and is displayed with class and warmth, only using drums and overdubbed instruments when necessary. And Justin was probably helped out in my estimation when I saw him live and he lived up to the album, and when I talked to him that he had interesting things to say.
This album isn’t without faults. I would second guess including a track that talks about “John Henry,” the most worn out name in country music, though I understand where he was trying to go. I’d also say that this album lacks and true, raw moxy that I would like to see from a country album. Justin does unleash a few times, but seems timid to go all the way. A little electrical rawness would possibly have made this album a little more fulfilling for me personally, though admittedly I can’t see where this would be added without feeling out of place.
This is in no way meant to discount Justin’s effort, but this was a down year in regards to REAL country albums, down from last year, and what next year promises to be. Last year this would have not been my top dog, but it still would have been at the top. And I take all elements into consideration. This album is the reason we all love country music, and when I say all, I mean people who would never listen to Hank III because he’s too vulgar, or people like me who’ve never been able to get into Justin’s dad Steve.
In fact I would say that Justin Townes Earle’s legacy now is more closely tied with his other namesake, Townes Van Zandt. In the last few years I have noticed a major resurgence in interest and enthusiasm for Townes, and it comes from all sectors, just like the interest for Justin Townes does. From hellbilly rockers to folk festival freaks to urban hipsters, Townes Van Zandt’s purity of lyricism defies genres and stereotypes and speaks to the inner soul. “Townes” is the glue that binds, and Justin has a running start to doing that name justice.
Midnight at the Movies is from Bloodshot Records.
Stay tuned for albums 2 thru 10.
Last week it was announced that country singer Jennifer Brantley had released a song the was written by Hank Williams, at least partially written by Hank Williams, and then finished by the request of Hank’s widow Audrey by Glenn Douglas Tubb, nephew of Ernest Tubb and a prolific songwriter. The song is called “Heratbroken, Forsaken, and Alone.” You can read the whole story about how the song was finished and how Brantley was picked as the performer in this MySpace blog and you can hear the song on Jennifer Brantley’s MySpace.
This story reminded me of the still unresolved mystery from this Spring about Bob Dylan acquiring 20-25 unfinished Hank Williams songs and then handing them out to various people, including Jack White to finish them. Since that story broke, there has been no further word about it, no release date, nothing. But since songs flowed from Hank Williams like water from the mountains, it makes you wonder how many other unfinished songs might be out there, owned by the fractured and sometimes contentious Hank Williams estate (Jr. & Jett principally), or by other private parties.
The new Jennifer Brantley song seems to be done in good taste, and since it was authorized by Audrey, the closest link to Hank, I feel a little more comfortable about it. But it seems a little weird, if not wrong, to take unfinished songs and act like you can complete the original thought. These songs, finished or not, are still works of art, and almost hold their own intrigue because they are unfinished. If someone wants to take one and record their own take on it, great, but why not publish them in their original form first, since this is as close to the essence of the song as we can get?
And why are we so quick to interject celebrity in the process? Why not use artists like Wayne Hancock or Hank III, whose writing style is most similar to that of Hank Williams, or at least include them in the process? These are songs that would have been the foundation of what country music is today, by the man who made country music into a popular art form and changed the landscape for American music forever.
What do you think? What should be done with the unfinished Hank Williams songs?
On the 23rd Hank Williams III finished up his latest Midwest tour with class, making a $5,000 donation to Homes For Our Troops at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville. In a ceremony during the concert, Hank III was presented with a flag that was flown in Iraq by a special ops unit in Hank III’s honor.
Homes for Our Troops is a national non-profit organization that assists severely injured veterans by building specially adapted, ADA compliant homes designed to accommodate the veteran’s disabilities. Homes for Our Troops is strongly committed to helping those who have selflessly given to our country and have returned home with serious injuries since September 11, 2001. Homes for Our Troops assists severely injured Servicemen and Servicewomen and their immediate families by raising donations of money, building materials and professional labor and to coordinate the process of building a home.
Hank III is building quite a reputation for ending tours with strong performances. Fans were given a rare treat when Nashville superpicker Johnny Hiland took the stage. Johnny has played on all of Hank III’s albums since Lovesick Broke & Driftin’, but a live performance is a very rare treat. The .357 String Band was also in attendance, as was former NFL player turned music man Kyle Turley, and Hank III’s recently turned 18-year-old son.
Thanks to Cathy and Evil from the Hank III Cussin’ Board for info and the picture for this story.
Tis the season of ringing cash register bells and getting snowed. What is a would-be responsible consumer to do when it seems like everything you want to purchase is going to fund terrorists, polluters, or corporations that screw artists and homogenize the music? It all makes you want to get as shitfaced as a shopping mall Santa six hours after being shitcanned for diddling an elf.
Well my friends, I say give the gift of vinyl. The LP is back in a big way baby, and it only seems fitting. Modern music has de-evolved so, it makes sense that we have to go back to move forward. Domesdayers who warned about a nuclear Winter from World War III liked to say that World War 4 would be fought with sticks and stones. So why not get our music from scratching a needle across a piece of wax?
Vinyl is a win win for the consumer AND the industry. It cannot easily be copied like digital downloads, and it gives the consumer a physical item to purchase and have. Album art again can be realized, and hypothetically, the artist can be compensated by additional sales. The win for the consumer is vinyl is free of things like digital rights encryption to make sure you don’t duplicate it too many times and wind up on Santa’s naughty list.
In lieu of vinyl, you should always make sure if you buy music digitally that it is in the MP3 format, not M4A, MP4, or others that can be carrying encryption software. That is why I always buy my digital music from Amazon who gives you clean MP3′s, though admittedly I turn right around and dump it into iTunes, which I’ve discovered sometimes goes back and re-formats the music to their MP4 format. What do your really think iTunes is doing when they are “updating you to the latest version”? If you want to read more about some of the nasty things digital music makers have done with digital downloads, click here (Sony), and here (iTunes). That’s right, each download comes with a little present to make sure you don’t re-gift the music like Aunt Frannie’s high fructose fruitcake.
And with vinyl, there’s no record (no pun intended) of how many times you’ve listened to the songs to be accumulated in some Big Brother database. It can’t be traced. Vinyl is yours, and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. And while the music being churned out by Nashville and the rest of the music industry is not worth the plastic it is printed on because it is void of creativity and then digitally compressed as all get out, vinyl has an amazing clarity and a connection with the original performance that outsurpasses any worries of convenience, even with the snap crackle pop.
Oh the satisfaction of finding a cool record at a thrift store for a buck, or hearing the needle finding the groove to lead it to the first song of a spanking new album. It’s like, well, opening a new present on Christmas day. What a buzkill it is when you open a CD for the first time, and it snaps in half as you try to remove it from the death grip of the center flanges. Bah Humbug.
What, too many Xmas references? Eh, kiss my mistletoe.
Apparently I’m not alone in my love for vinyl. According to the LA Times:
“. . . vinyl sales will reach 2.8 million units in 2009, up from 1.9 million in 2008, a record since SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991. Rock albums account for 70% of all vinyl sold, but country vinyl is enjoying a growth spurt. Year-to-date country vinyl sales are already at 15,000 copies, compared with 5,000 for the comparable period in 2008.”
So in closing, if you’re looking for that something for that cowboy that has everything, buy them a vinyl record. Or a Snuggie. Here’s some suggestions:
- Townes van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas
- Hank III: Lovesick, Broke and Driftin [Vinyl LP with Bonus CD]
- Hank III: Straight to Hell [2 LP Vinyl]
- Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings (Vinyl LP)
- Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around
- Those Poor Bastards: Satan is Watching (vinyl lp)
In a couple of recent interviews, one on Episode 66 of Outlaw Radio and another posted recently on YouTube (see below) Hank Williams III seems almost to be discounting his new upcoming album, The Rebel Within before it even comes out.
He mentions that it is a good album, but he also goes out of his way to say it is not as good as Straight to Hell, how the creative juices are not flowing under the ultra-combative control of his record label Curb Records, and that he doesn’t want to give Curb anything “too good,” because any songs he releases while still under Curb contract will still remain the property of Curb even when he leaves.
Hank III’s personal MySpace page still says, “ANd il tell ya the way it is Damn Right and Rebel Proud aint Shit Compared to Straight To Hell!”, discounting his last release as well. I can only imagine all of this talk must drive his management crazy.
So my question for you is, what do you think when an artists comes out and plays down a release before it even comes out? Do you appreciate the honesty, and does it make the artist more real and accessible? Or do you think it is an unhealthy practice?
Hank III will never make another Straight to Hell because that album encapsulated a space in time that will no longer exist again, and was groundbreaking in a way very few albums could ever achieve. In the latest YouTube video, Hank III gives credit for his loyal fan base to giving his music away in the form of letting fans tape shows. Is his honestly with his fan base, telling it like it is with no spin, another reason for the rabid loyalty of Hank III fans?
On Oct. 20th, Hank III granted a rare interview with Outlaw Radio Chicago and let slide quite a few tidbits of interesting information, including that he wants to tour Canada and Japan again soon, and he talked at length about his upcoming album, which we now know is going to be entitled The Rebel Within, after a song that he’s been playing recently at live shows (see below for video.)
To listen to the entirety of the interview you can click here and scroll down to Episode 66, but since I have has a lot of questions about the upcoming album and some are not wired for podcasts, here’s the info from the Head Hellbilly himself.
As for the status of it:
“We got one more country record before I get to get “independent” of Curb. By Nov. 1st it should be turned in with all the artwork and be coming out sooner than later. I’ve heard through the grapevine that once I turn it in that there’s a clock that’s gonna start ticking and they have to let me go after 10 or 11 months or something like that. Hopefully they’ll see that I gave them a good record. I could have gave them nothing but static and noise and been like “Ah, here ya go, it’s been nice knowing you.” But I gave them a good record man.”
The Songs, and Compared to Straight to Hell:
“I honestly don’t think it tops Straight to Hell. It’s got a couple of moments. It’s got a strait up country song called “Drinking Ain’t Hard to Do.” Then of course you have “The Rebel Within” that has a little bit of the screamin’. And then you got a little more of the hellbilliy, psychobilly track on “Let’s Party.” Both of those songs are already on YouTube and you can check them out. It goes through some different kind of moods, like there’s some slow ones like “#5″ it’s the big gut wrencher. It’s written for one of my friends whose gone through the hard times with the heroin man, and made it through the other side. It’s got the slow ones its got the fast ones and a little attitude. But I still don’t think it tops . . . I still got another 4 years before I come close to knocking that one (Straight to Hell) down.
What Will He Do Next?:
“It’s hard to say right now. I probably just go with a good distribution company and see how that works. That’s advise from Henry Rollins and people like that. And if it’s an artist, let’s say Buzz from The Melvins starts a record company or if I go with Jello Biafra at Alternative Tentacles or something. I would definitely do it with someone that I respect and who’s a fellow musician. I just want to have the freedom to have fun with my friends and make music out there, and we’ll see if I can go DIY. With our foundation and the internet, it should be interesting.
Another interesting tidbit from the interview was Hank III said his two favoirte female signers were Janis Joplin and Gillian Welch.
There’s a lot more info from that interview so you should check it out when you get a chance, and here’s the title track of The Rebel Within:
To learn more about the fight between Ronnie Milsap and Capitol Records Nashville, click here.
A lot of people have been curious why I championed the fight of Ronnie Milsap against Capitol Records, from my core readers to Milsap fans. Normally I cover artists here that nobody else does, and this doesn’t really pertain to Milsap. The truth is this story touched a nerve with me because of the the themes and history at the very core of Saving Country Music. So I thought I would explain in detail why this is, and at the same time hopefully impart some hope to Ronnie Milsap and Bleve Music.
When Bleve decided to refuse to comply with the court’s “cease and decist” order, they posted a picture of a small kid taking on a Sumo wrestler. It was going to be a David and Goliath fight no doubt, but like Bleve said, sometimes you have to take a stand.
But this is not the first time a small independently-minded entity has taken on a major Nashville label in recent memory. In 2004, the grandson of Hank Williams, Hank Williams III took on the label Curb Records after they would not release his album, originally entitled Thrown Out of the Bar. Legally, Curb did not have a leg to stand on. They just did not want to put out the album. So Hank III fought them in court, and in the court of public opinion.
Hank III started a campaign with the name “Curb” preceded by an unsavory four letter word. There were T-Shirts and bumper stickers. Hank III even wrote it on his guitar. Curb held defiant, until a judge ruled in favor of Hank III in the Spring of 2005, and the album now entitled Straight to Hell, was officially released. David had slayed Goliath. Well, sort of.
A concession Hank III had to make to get the album released was that he could not publicly slander Curb Records anymore. Now Curb had Hank III where they wanted him, because when his next album, Damn Right, Rebel Proud was set to be released, they played the same delay game they had played with Straight to Hell, and Hank III was unable to say anything about it.
What Curb had not banked on was the loyal and active nature of the Hank III fan base. Saving Country Music grew out of an organization called Free Hank III. Since Hank III had been stripped of his freedom of speech, his fans spoke for him, putting pressure on Curb to release the album.
The movement culminated when hundreds of Free Hank III supporters started calling Curb Records and tying up their phone lines, demanding that Curb give the album a released date. Coincidentally, this was the same day Hank III and his management were meeting with Curb executives to try to end the standoff. A few days later Curb decided to release Damn Right, Rebel Proud, which they did in October of 2008.
Since the very beginning of the Free Hank III fight, I had this sentence in the verbage of the site:
“Hank III’s fight is not just about country music. You may not like country music or you may not like Hank III’s music, but his fight is the same fight artists of all walks are fighting for creative control of their art. Weather you are a musician, painter, writer, sculptor, whatever, Hank III’s fight is your fight, and he serves as an inspiration to us all.
You could say the same about Ronnie Milsap, or any artist, it doesn’t matter. And the fact that Ronnie Milsap’s song and Bleve Music are trying to benefit charitable organizations makes their fight even more righteous, and the irony of Capitol Records Nashville’s stance even more thick.
I never thought that I would have police officers commenting and reading my articles. I’ve had a few firefighters as readers almost since day 1. I joke that a lot of my core readers could populate America’s Most Wanted. In truth I love them all, and judge nobody, and try to respect everyone’s opinion. But the reason my readership is so diverse is because the themes behind the fight are so true and eternal. Back in the 70′s they called Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings “Outlaws,” not because they were outside of the law of the land (well, not all the time) but because they were outside of the control of the intrusive Nashville entities, entities just like Curb and Capitol.
Artists should have the right to do what they want with their art, and the big companies that control music should respect the artist and the fans first, and then concern themselves with the money interests. We all have to make money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when the desire for money clouds moral judgment and begins to affect people’s lives in adverse ways, we all must take a stand, no matter what flavor the cause might be.
Some may think that we take this fight to save country music too seriously, and sometimes I wonder about that myself. But this is just one element in the larger fight across our way of life, fighting the homogenization of our culture, and fighting for the freedom of expression and art in general. Some may decide to take the fight up for farms or jobs or politics, etc. We have just chosen country music, because it is something we believe in. It is simple and something we cherish.
That is why I have chosen to stand behind Ronnie Milsap and Bleve Records, and because of my Free Hank III experience, why I have hope that if we stand together, what is right will prevail.
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