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“Iām as respectful of the manās work ethic as Iām mystified by his transformational skills. Without a doubt, the filmmakers chose the right actor for the job.“
This is the long and short of how Rodney Crowell feels about the job British actor Tom Hiddleston is doing to morph himself into Hank Williams for the upcoming biopic I Saw The Light based on Colin Escott’s biography. Rodney Crowell was hired on by the production company of the movie to be the Executive Music Producer and Tom Hiddleston’s personal voice coach for his Hank Williams transformation.
In a lengthy post on Rodney’s Facebook page from earlier this week, the country/Americana performer expounded about his experiences with Tom while in training for the part.
During the month of September 2014, our house in Tennessee became the base camp for Tom Hiddlestonās steady transformation into Hank Williams. Iād been hired by a film company—whose vision of shining a gritty light on the life and times of Hank Williams piqued my interest no end—to produce the music and assist their leading man in finding his way into the heart of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time.
The classically trained British actor arrived in Nashville on the fourth day of the month and the very next day climbed on a tour bus bound for Michigan and the Wheatland Music Festival, his traveling companions Claudia, myself, and a four-piece band consisting of Jerry Roe, Byron House, Pat Buchannan and Steve Fishell. Just minutes before taking part in an afternoon workshop with Sarah Jarosz, whose permission I had sought first, I asked Tom if heād like to join us onstage and sing āIām So Lonesome I Could Cry,ā a Hank Williams song Iād heard him practicing on the bus. I was surprised when he said yes and skillfully performed the tune before what must have been 1500 people. Later that night, with my band on the main stage, and with very little urging from me, he rendered a joyful version of āMove It On Over.ā Afterward, brimming with delight, he admitted, rather boyishly, that heād never in his life performed with a band and had loved it.
The pick to have the part of Hank Williams played by Hiddleston has been a controversial one in some sectors. Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, has been a vocal opponent of the casting, saying that it would take an American to understand the unique the role of playing country music’s first superstar. Hank3 has also criticized the pick of Rodney Crowell as Hiddleston’s vocal coach. Hank3 told Saving Country Music, “It definitely puts Rodney Crowell in a strange position. Iām definitely not wanting to be hard on him. But if if Rodney Crowell is the voice coach, it says a lot right there … No disrespect to Rodney Crowell, but thereās two Hank Williams walking this earth right now.”
When video surfaced of Hiddleston performing at the Wheatland Music Festival, the debate started anew about Hiddleston’s abilities to assume the role realistically and believably. Producers for the film have said that Hiddleston will be performing multiple Hank Williams songs live in the movie, and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Move It On Over,” and “Lovesick Blues” are the three songs that have come up multiple times as being potential movie cuts.
Rodney Crowell went on to speak specifically to Hiddleston’s dedication and work ethic for the role.
On a typical day in September, I watched him sit for a wardrobe fitting, read through four hours worth of key scenes with the director and leading lady, spend another two hours with a dialect coach, and then, in order to lose the weight needed to look Hank Williams gaunt on screen, run seven wicked miles over hilly Tennessee terrain. With those chores done, heād then commit to six more hours of singing, over and over again, a very hard to master song like āLovesick Blues.ā And then, when he finally unlocked the mystery of yodeling the blues, hillbilly style, and was treated to a playback of his performance responded by saying āI can do it better, let me go again.ā Then came a late dinner, wolfed down before giving in to a few hours sleep. After nearly a month spent collaborating with this gifted artist, Iām as respectful of the manās work ethic as Iām mystified by his transformational skills. Without a doubt, the filmmakers chose the right actor for the job.
I Saw The Light is set to begin filming in Louisiana in mid to late October, and the casting of local extras has begun. Elizabeth Olsen has also been selected to play the role of Audrey Williams, Hank’s wife.
The debate will likely rage over the pick of Tom Hiddleston to play Hank Williams well after the movie is shot and released, but Rodney Crowell makes it clear that he believes they found the right man.
On Wednesday September 17th, Hank3 stopped at the Outland Ballroom in Springfield, MO for the start of his current West Coast tour. Hank3 played three separate sets of music for the packed house representing the three facets of the 3rd generation performer: Country, Hellbilly (A Fiendish Threat), and Metal (Attention Deficit Domination). Photo journalist Robert Kipness of Black Bird Creative was there to capture the event.
“The place was packed all throughout the night and the return of Dan Johnson on the steel guitar for the Damn Band/hellbilly set was a great experience,” says Robert. “The fiddle was on fire, the banjo was on point, the drums were heart pounding, and 3′s voice was sounding fantastic for it being the first night. Get yourself to a show as it’s only gonna get better as the tour rolls through.”
All photos Ā© Robert Kipness – Black Bird Creative Photography
Hank William III, or Hank3 as he goes by, has been causing quite a stir over the last few weeks from his vocal concern about his grandfather being portrayed by British actor Tom Hiddleston in the upcoming biopic I Saw The Light. The 3rd generation performer has been posting his thoughts on Facebook, been quoted by TMZ, and has been leaving comments right here on Saving Country Music saying that an American, or a Southerner, or someone else besides Hiddleston would be a better fit for the role of Hank Williams. Coupled with Hank3′s hard-edged style, he’s come off as abrasive to some, while many Hank Williams fans agree with his sentiment and are concerned about the direction the biopic is taking.
When I spoke to Hank3 today for an extended period, I didn’t find a cocky, closed-minded individual suspicious of a foreign actor and who secretly wishes he would have been considered for the role (Hank3 does have some acting experience, and even his hardest detractors must admit he looks and sounds the part). What I found was a man seriously conflicted, being eaten up not just by the idea of Hiddleston playing his grandfather, but that the entire biopic project was commencing on an unsturdy foundation. He also feels bad for the position his criticism is putting Hiddleston and his vocal coach Rodney Crowell in.Ā “For some reason it is deeply embedding in my skull and I can’t get it out,” he says. “Just the fact of why the hell is this bothering me right now because I’ve got a hell of a lot of other stuff on my plate right now.”
Hank3 is currently prepping to embark on a West Coast tour where he’ll be playing shows that could stretch to three or four hours, and as his own tour manager, he is busy rounding up crew and gear, and finalizing all preparations. Worrying about Tom Hiddleston’s Hank Williams role should be the last thing from his mind. But here he is amidst a public skirmish involving huge press outlets and international players.
For the first time since the issues with I Saw The Light arose, I talk to Hank3 in depth about the movie and his concerns, as well as about what fans can expect from his upcoming tour and if any new music is on the way.
You’ve been a vocal opponent of the choice of Tom Hiddleston to play your grandfather Hank Williams in the upcoming biopic I Saw The Light. You’ve already spoken a lot on the subject publicly, but what did seeing the first videos of Tom Hiddleston perform your grandfather’s music tell you about Hiddleston’s ability to pull off the role genuinely?
Unfortunately the way they’re approaching it is doing it in the public eye, so that in itself doesn’t seem very smart. If he’s supposed to be working on his craft to really dial in this role, doing it in front of folks is probably not the best way to do it. And then, if you’re going to put it publicity out there and have him singing and then put a link to Hank Williams singing next to it? Yeah, that’s really bad. Unfortunately, they’re acting like he’s going to be singing a lot in the movie, and that in itself is a letdown. Almost everyone that I talk to hears no resemblance, and it’s alright if there’s no resemblance. Hopefully the acting will make up for it. But the main point that I will still stand by no matter what happens in the future, I still think for an Americana icon, an American needs to play that role. To have a good foundation, and to make the best of a movie, and to take it to the next level and make it feel as real as possible, yeah… My example is the Coal Miner’s Daughter movie. It’s a very well-made movie that people could identify with on many levels.
For some reason, this is really bothering me. I don’t know why. I don’t have anything to lose or gain from it. But for the approach that is happening with this movie is just not sitting right with me. And it’s not just me. There’s a lot of people I talk to out there that just don’t understand it. And this isn’t about Tom [Hiddleston]. This is about the choice. I’m not out to diss his acting or anything like that. I’m just going to shoot from the hip. I don’t think it’s a good pick, especially hearing what I did. Anyone can sing in a low register like that. I don’t hear any nasal twang to it. I honestly just want to see the best movie that can be made, because it’s been a while since they’ve made one that’s been good. Your Cheatin’ Heart had some moments, but honestly, Audrey [Hank's wife] killed that script, and took out most of the real things about it. I guess I’m so vocal about it because I care, and I want to see the best movie made. I try to let it get out of my head, and God only knows why this one is rubbing me raw, but it is.
Well this is supposed to be the definitive biopic, or at least that’s how they’re portraying it, based off of Colin Escott’s biography which is the definitive biography of Hank Williams. So this is the big one.
Yeah, I may have a shady reputation here and there and might say some things, but all in all I’m pretty humble about what I do, and I’m not out to put anybody down. But when it comes to something as important as this, I have to say some things. It goes from the street, all the way up to the corporate level in Nashville. There’s already a lot of people shaking their heads. And I know it just puts Tom [Hiddleston] in a bad situation.
To get into those areas that are really deep, you need to getting into the areas around here. Here in Tennessee, in Alabama, in Louisiana, to live it, eat it and breathe it. When Johnny Depp did Hunter S. Thompson, where was he? He was living in Hunter’s basement. No disrespect to Rodney Crowell, but there’s two Hank Williams walking this earth right now.
I know you have no direct say so in the Hank Williams estate; that’s handled by Jr. and Jett. But it doesn’t sound like they reached out to you at all to get consultation, or even to vet the populous to try and find the best person to play Hank Williams. You have may not wanted the role even if it was offered to you, but the resemblance is there both with your voice and your likeness. Why wouldn’t they reach out for a screen test? You’ve done some acting in the past. Did they even reach out just to say, “Hey, we know your passion for your grandfather, why don’t you come in and at least give us your advice or consultation?” None of that happen with you or your father [Hank Jr.]?
Yeah, there’s been nothing. And that could be because of politics, and because I don’t have that big time mover and shaker manager in my corner. But no one has approach me, and I’m a very easy to get to guy.
And unfortunately, the BBC, the Europeans, they all have a huge appreciation for Hank Williams. That’s not a question in my mind. There is a true love there. But for the role, and for the movie, it’s just doesn’t feel right. It’s going to be hard to look at for someone like me, or someone who is a die hard Hank Williams fan. It’s going to be a very big hurdle to overcome. I know Tom [Hiddleston] has fire in some of his roles, but if you really do your homework on Hank Williams, he was a very cocky individual who would stare you down almost like you were going to be getting into a fight. It’s an intensity that’s kind of different. There’s a lot of things in the nose structure and the jawline, just basic stuff. I’m not trying to gain the press, I’m just giving an opinion. And unfortunately, my opinion isn’t what they’re wanting to hear.
Hypothetically, let’s just say the filmmakers did reach out to you, either in the future or in the past to get your opinions, or to try out for the role. Would you have been receptive to those things, and would you be receptive to those things now?
I tell every director my weakness of what they have to work with, and what they have to pull out of me. I’ve been on a movie set, I’ve done it. People like Earl Brown have said to me, “Well, you can do it, you’ve got it.” It doesn’t matter if people are pitching TV shows at me or documentaries, or anything, I always tell them what I’m like as a person, and what to expect. And then as far as your job as a director, you’re going to have to heighten it to the next level to really get what you need out of me. I’m open, and I tell folks the pluses and the minuses, and I’m the first one to say I’m no super great actor, and I’m no super great singer. I always shoot straight. I do the best that I can, and some folks get it, and some folks don’t. But a lot of people have the potential for this role. It’s just getting the right foundation up under it.
The director is Marc Abraham, and he hasn’t done much directing. He’s mostly a producer; a behind-the-scenes type guy, and he’s done a lot of horror and action films. He’s a guy that definitely has a name in Hollywood, has made a lot of movies, and people know him. But this is only the second film that he’s directed.
As Jeff Bridges would say, a young director, sometimes they don’t know the rules to break. Every movie you make you learn something and it takes time to hone in on your craft. It doesn’t sound like a very seasoned guy for that role. I hate to look at anything just on paper, but if you’re looking at who the lead guy is, who the director is, yeah man, it’s kind of so so, for all that Hank Williams has done.
Some people are saying, “Well, you’re criticizing something that hasn’t even been made yet.” Any movie is going to necessitate the audience to suspend disbelief. But I guess the counterpoint to that would be to speak now or forever hold your peace, because as soon as this movie production begins, people can chirp all they want, but it’s not necessarily going to change anything. What would you say to people who say you’re not even giving it a chance?
I just know that there’s some things there that you can’t teach, no matter how hard you try to polish it or morph it into something you want. And unfortunately, this movie is going in that direction. With this, it’s like, I already know. No matter how much you polish it, it’s not going to hit the potential that it could, just because of what they’re sticking with, or where they could take it. Just like a guitar player that might know a million and one notes and he’s a guitar whiz and all that. But he has no feel. And this is falling under that category. It’s just not going to have much feel, because Tom is already going to be worried about this role, he’s already getting flack over it. Many many people are just not impressed as far as the whole situation around it.
And it definitely puts Rodney Crowell in a strange position. I’m definitely not wanting to be hard on him. But if if Rodney Crowell is the voice coach, it says a lot right there too.
And for some reason it is deeply embedding in my skull and I can’t get it out. Just the fact of why the hell is this bothering me right now because I’ve got a hell of a lot of other stuff on my plate right now.
Well, it’s your grandfather. You’ve been doing this Reinstate Hank campaign for years. You’re one of the biggest champions in trying to preserve his legacy and pay it forward to a new generation. And this movie symbolizes such an amazing opportunity to do that. That’s the promise of the movie if they do it right, is it could have a huge impact on revitalizing the understanding of who Hank Williams was to the American culture and to the music culture of the world.
But I will say, with or without this movie, Hank Williams’ music is still going to do that. I had to bring that up earlier today. No matter, his music is going to be timeless, and movies come and go. At the end of the day, his music and what he did is going to outlast the movie, and be passed on for generations. That is why he is as special as he is.
You’re 41 years old now, which is hard to contemplate for your fans, but probably even harder for you because you’re still doing your punk and metal music, you’re still stretching out shows to four and five hours. Where do you find that energy? It must take a big toll.
I approach every tour like it is my last tour. I am the strongest / weakest person you’ll ever meet. It’s a weird Jekyll and Hyde relationship. It’s just like art—you create, and then you destroy. And when I go out on the road, I’m putting it on the line, I’m taking it to the next level, I put 100% into my shows. Some nights, the voice just feels too good and the audience wants more, and it will end up being a five hour show. But no matter what, I do two hours of country. It’s like I have to go the extra mile to be able to rock out, and to pay respects to my fans and to make sure everyone got their money’s worth, I always do two hours of country, and then I go off into the Hellbilly and all of the other sounds.
It’s pretty intense for right now. And one day it might not be as hard, but where I get that energy and that drive from is playing every show like it’s my last show, and putting it on the line while I can. Because if I make it to my 50′s then yeah maybe I’ll get back into the country fairs and not be as intense. It’s hard to say where I’ll be. You look at Lemmy and you look at Willie. Who knows what the future holds. Right now I’m very proud to have the diverse audience that I have. A lot of people have preconceived notions of about how fame was just handed to me when it’s not been like that. It’s hard to carve out your own niche when you’re standing in the shadows of Hank Sr. and Hank Jr. But I feel comfortable that people have accepted me for Hank3. Not everybody gets it, and not everybody is supposed to. It’s a long show, and it’s a hard one. I’m trying to put on the biggest little show in a bar out there, and know that there’s no one else in the world doing what we’re were doing as far as at the level that we’re at.
Where is your band sitting these days? There’s been a lot of interest if Andy Gibson (steel guitar player) will be returning.
Some of the guys just need a break every now and then. I’m sure when I’m recording another record, I’ll check in and see what’s going on with Andy. Dwayne [Dennison] is not going to be out on this next tour. And just for the record, this last tour was barely able to get off the ground. I got double booked. I got confirmed on a show I didn’t give the go ahead on, and just as of yesterday I got a crew together, so this one has been down to the wire. So were having to work extra hard on this gig.
And word generally on when we could expect a new album or albums, or what we could expect from them once they’re released?
I can’t go off full bore into a whole other project just yet until I break even off of the two records that I released. So once I break even from Brothers of the 4X4 and A Fiendish Threat, then I can start putting my efforts off into either a new country record, or whatever it is. So right now I’ve just been doing a good bit of side work, and playing to keep playing. But there’s nothing officially set at this point. I’m basically in road mode still. And as soon as I hear that I have broken even, I’ll move on to the next one.
When movie actor Tom Hiddleston was first cast in the role to play Hank Williams in the upcoming biopic I Saw The Light, there was concern of whether a British actor could pull off the part of the Southern born and bred Hillbilly Shakespeare. Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, or Hank3, spoke out about the matter, saying that a Southern man should be cast in the role. Though Hank3 gave respect to Hiddleston who was taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he was concerned he couldn’t evoke the pain Hank Williams felt as a Southerner. This concern has also been expressed by other Hank Williams and country music fans.
Now we have received our first taste of Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams, and some are applauding, and some have started the furor over the casting anew. Though Hiddleston seemed to do a fine job singing, some Hank Williams fans are not feeling the similarities in the style.
Hiddleston made a surprise appearance at the Wheatland Music Festival in Michigan on Saturday (9-7) and performed a rendition of the Hank Williams classic “Move It On Over.” On Sunday, Hiddleston returned to Wheatland with mentor Rodney Crowell—who has been personally working with Hiddleston—to sing a version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
The production for I Saw The Light has already secured the rights to Hank’s songs from publishing company Sony ATV, and have said that along with Hank’s original recordings, Hiddleston will be performing certain songs in the movie live.
Far from some of the dated and shoestring budget productions centered around the life of country music’s first superstar, I Saw The Light is set to be a full budget feature film in the same vein of the Johnny Cash biopic I Walk The Line. The movie is based off of the biography from Colin Escott, and is written and directed by Marc Abraham. Production is set to begin in October in Louisiana. The ambition and expanse of the film is one of the reasons many Hank Williams fans are showing so much interest in the casting of the iconic country music figure.
Tom Hiddleston has said about the role,
āThe film is about the man behind the myth, the power of his music, the sheer voltage of his talent and charisma, and his formidable demons,ā Hiddleston says. āHe worked hard, played hard, lived hard ā there were women, there was whiskey ā but when he sang about being in the doghouse in āMove It On Overā, or about his heartbreak in āIām So Lonesome I Could Cryā, it came from an honest place.Ā Hankās life has a tragic arc, but in simple truth, he was a genius: a star that burned twice as bright and lived half as long. Itās a huge role for me and a huge responsibility. Iām going to give it everything Iāve got.ā
Though there is still a month before production begins, this video below is an early sign of what people might expect of Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams.
ā Elisabeth Waldon (@elisabethwaldon) September 7, 2014
Brad Paisley has been making quite the spectacle on Twitter over the last two days, claiming to be leaking bits and pieces of his upcoming album Moonshine In The Trunk against the will of his label Sony Music. Or so he says.
The frivolity started Saturday night (7-27) as Brad Paisely took to the social network site to post YouTube links to players that featured 2-second snippets of his new songs, all while supposedly stirring the ire of the “suits.”
āIām going rogue.” Paisley said. “The label doesnāt know I’m doing this. Seriously. But I made a Moonshine Preview teaser. Donāt tell. Better listen to this while you can. I bet the label tries to pull it down. Clockās ticking.ā
Brad then posted links to the Youtube players, and later screen shots of supposed communications from Sony who was apparently trying to “shut him down” as he continued on his quest to release the teasers. “Hurry up and Listen. Iām going to dentention. Breakfast club!!! Here I come.”
Later Brad Paisely posted, “I really do love my record label. Especially for puttinā up with my $h@t. But I love yāall even more. Ha! Priorities. Okay suits. Catch me if you can. Take 2: enjoy.”
And this continued with subsequent tweets as Brad Paisley complained that the YouTube players were getting yanked by Sony, and posted further players to circumvent them.
Then similar hijinks happened again on Sunday night. After Brad claimed he was restricted from posting the YouTube previews by Sony, Paisley supposedly recruitedĀ Ludacris—rapper and co-judge of ABC’s new reality singing competition Rising Star—to post the players for him. “I promised I wouldn’t post the link myself. Me. Myself. I. I’d love to post another link but they’re watching me like a hawk but I bet they’re not watching Ludacris.”
All of this was happening with ABC’s broadcast of Rising Star bisecting Sunday’s Twitter event. “OK great show everybody! Now back to the rebellion!” Brad said afterwards, along with more screen shots of supposed emails and texts from management.
Normally an artist rebelling against their label, even if that artist or their music doesn’t particularly fit the style of what Saving Country Music would condone, would receive nothing but cheering and steadfast support here. And it isn’t as if the Brad Paisley/Sony Music relationship is without problems. Brad has ongoing court dealings with Sony over the amount of royalties he’s been paid, but even in his “rebellious” tweets Brad said, “I really do love my record label,” and there’s never seemed to be a strain in the working relationship between Brad and Sony.
This Brad Paisley leaking episode is not him acting out against his label, it is pure marketing. Maybe Sony did not know that Brad was planning to leak the 2-second snippets, maybe they did. But either way, the entire episode was planned out, choreographed, and carefully executed by a marketing team assembled by the Brad Paisley camp. Whether Sony was in on the ruse really is inconsequential.
Normally when an artist rebels against their label, there’s a means to an end. All we have here is two seconds snippets of songs, and a remix of his already-released single “River Bank” with Colt Ford. There’s no freedom gained by Paisley, or any particular value for the consumer by posting two-second bits of songs. This is all to create a stir in the public, and by attempting to portray Brad Paisley’s actions as spontaneous, let alone rebellious, it is an insult to the intelligence of the country music fan. The lines in the tweets and texts are clearly canned, and it’s no surprise Brad was in cahoots with DJ Bobby Bones to release the “River Bank” remix. Bobby Bones is another character who is apt to fabricated attention grabs full of canned jargon an ambiguous gripes about “suits” shutting him down.
There are artists in country music and elsewhere that truly labor under unfair, unethical, and sometimes illegal conditions from labels, sometimes with tongue-tying clauses in their contracts that don’t even allow the artists the ability to speak on the matters publicly. Many artists were, and are resigned to this fate under Curb Records, and have to fight protracted and costly legal battles to gain the ability to release their own music, including Tim McGraw, Hank Williams III, and others, sometimes having to wait half a decade between releases as their careers lose momentum. To use this unfortunate reality of country music for many artists as marketing is in poor taste, and Paisley’s own potential short changing by his label for royalties should have made this even more top-of-mind.
Once again Brad Paisley is resorting to headline-stealing histrionics to try to remain at the top of the country music mindset in a move that undermines his natural talents, and his standing as one of mainstream country music’s good guys.
Rebellion my ass.
According to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Mamie Savannah Warner recently was caught trying to sell drugs at a Tudors Biscuit World in Boone County while two police officers were having lunch at the location. This resulted in Mamie being found guilty for felony delivery of a controlled substance, and she was placed on 90 days of home confinement. When she violated the home confinement order on Thursday, July, 3rd, police arrested her and booked her into South Western Regional Jail in Holden, West Virginia.
White was also arrested on November 9th of 2013 for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and assault and battery of a police officer with a weapon.
Mamie had a very small appearance in the original The Dancing Outlaw movie that was released through PBS in 1991 that began the cultural fascination with the White family of West Virginia, and eventually landed her brother Jesco appearances on the TV show Rosanne and other high profile roles. In 2009ā²s The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, Mamie was arguably the focal point of the film as the familyās matriarch after the passing of her mother, Bertie Mae White. Mamie used to act as de facto manager and liason for her brother Jesco.
The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia explicitly depicts Mamie White, and other members of the White family abusing and selling prescription drugs and other illegal substances. Since the release of the film, Mamie and other White Family members have distanced from the depictions, and claimed they were taken advantage of by the film. Mamie told the Coal Valley News, āIām not happy with the scenes of drug use and neither is Jescoā¦We havenāt gotten enough from Johnny Knoxville to amount to anything.ā
The Whites have appeared in songs by numerous country music artists, including Big & Rich, and Hank Williams III who also appeared in the Wild & Wonderful Whites film, but later distanced from the film as well.
Jesco White was also arrested near the release of Wild & Wonderful Whites in 2009, but all the charges were later dropped.
Actor Tom Hiddleston, most recently of blockbuster comic book movies such as Thor and The Avengers, was announced on June 12th as the leading role in an upcoming biopic about the life of Hank Williams called I Saw The Light. The English native who studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is a hot commodity in movies at the moment, and is reportedly already working on reprising Hank Williams, including rehearsing songs he will sing in the movie, while still finishing up his current project.
On June 18th, TMZ posted an abbreviated story about how Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, or Hank3, was angry about the choice of an Englishman to play the role, and that a Southerner like Matthew McConaughey would be a better fit. Later Hank3 clarified his statements after the TMZ piece spurned accusations of racism and whether Hank3 had the right to criticize the casting. Hank3 had reached out to TMZ, but they refused to post any further information.
Tom Hiddleston recently spoke to The Daily Mail about the film, reassuring concerned country music fans about the reverence with which he will approach the role.
“The film is about the man behind the myth, the power of his music, the sheer voltage of his talent and charisma, and his formidable demons,” Hiddleston says. “He worked hard, played hard, lived hard ā there were women, there was whiskey ā but when he sang about being in the doghouse in ‘Move It On Over’, or about his heartbreak in ‘Iām So Lonesome I Could Cry’, it came from an honest place.Ā Hankās life has a tragic arc, but in simple truth, he was a genius: a star that burned twice as bright and lived half as long. Itās a huge role for me and a huge responsibility. Iām going to give it everything Iāve got.”
Hiddleston, who says he’s “already started singing and playing every day,” also told The Daily Mail he’s been working with Rodney Crowell to get pointers on how to emulate Hank. “It was spine-tingling just to spend a day playing some of Hank’s greatest hits like Hey Good Lookinā and Long Gone Lonesome Blues with such a gifted musician. He’s already expanded my vocal range and given me a few pointers about adapting my own tone to sound like Hank. Rodney has furnished me with his beautiful J45 Gibson to practice with. And he’ll be on hand throughout the shoot.”
Further details about the movie were also revealed, like how the film will delve into the personal relationships Williams had with his wife Audrey, his mother Lillie, songwriter and executive Fred Rose, his second wife, and is Drifting Cowboy band, and will run all the way up to Hank’s death on New Years Day, 1953.
I Saw The Light is set to begin filming in Louisiana in October. It is based off of the Colin Escott biography of Hankās life, and is directed and written by Marc Abraham.
The grandson of Hank Williams, Hank Williams III, aka Hank3, is not happy with the casting of English actor Tom Hiddleston in the upcoming biopic about his grandfather. The new retrospective called I Saw The Light will be based off of the Colin Escott biography of Hankās life, and directed and written by Marc Abraham, an American film producer known for such movies as Spy Game and most recently The Man With The Iron Fists. Production of the film is set to start in Louisiana in October.
In a story initially run by TMZ, the entertainment news organization said succinctly,
“Hank Williams III tells TMZ … producers cookin’ up a Hank biopic blew it when they cast British actor Tom Hiddleston to play the legendary country crooner. Hiddleston’s best known for his role as Loki in “The Avengers.”Ā Hank3 says producers should have cast Matthew McConaughey as Hank because Matt represents the South both in movies and real life.Ā Hank3 singles out ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’ to prove Matt has the acting chops to get the job done well.”
As Far the Age factor a lot of folks are talking about Matthew is to old for this role.. Keep this in mind. Most folks that Look at Hank sr, Cant believe he was only 29. Meaning that he looked way way way older then he was. So that in its self shoots down the aspects of having clean crisp young actor to play this role. Hank Williams was a very old soul. Inside and out…And having a more a seasoned actor well in my eyes would only make it a better movie. I want someone to play Sr who is actually born as real Southern American that has some heritage in the blood and could possibly Identify with the role on a more personal note. I’m not part of the Hank Williams Estate so I have nothing to gain or loose, All that money is for Hank Jr and Jett Williams. It would be nice to see a well made movie on him since the last one was hacked apart by Audrey pretty much.
You know if this movie doesn’t do it right on down the road another one will. Cause that’s the gift Hank Williams will always have is being TimeLess!
Hank Williams Sr life was shortened by a death A doctor with a fake license.
Hank Williams was playing Rock N roll before Rock N Roll was and was doing Doom before Doom was even a genre with his Luke The drifter records.
Shelton Hank Williams III aka HANK3
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Previously Hank3 also posted:
As far as alot of the TMZ Comments go. A> Yes My WHole Name is Shelton Hank Williams III. B> Yes I said A American actor should play Hank Sr out of respects to the heritage and Family. C> WHy Is wanting a American to play the role being Racist? D. As far as people Sayin Matthew is to old to play Hank sr since he is 45…Dont froget Hank Sr looked way way way Older then 29….The Headline Should of said Hank3 wishes they Would of Used American Actor Matthew McConaughey to keep traditional roots alive in new Hank Sr Movie. Leave it to TMZ To Take a positive and turn it into a negative.
In the annals of country music, the amount of concept albums proffered to the public have been very very few. But these extra efforts have almost always gone on to loom larger than their more standard format counterparts, and become pillars of influence from which scores of other albums draw their inspiration. Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears: Ballad of the American Indian was arguably country music’s first concept album, and has gone on to become a cult favorite. Willie Nelson’s Phases & Stages helped stimulate his rise in country as a performer, and his Red Headed Stranger is arguably the greatest country music album of all time. Hank Williams III’s Straight to Hell helped create a country music underground and put the 3rd generation star on the map. And even today, whether you consider Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music a concept album or not, it has critics singing its praises and marks the starting point of a fast-rising artist.
Lost among country music’s great concept albums though, unless you count yourself amongst the die hard Marty Stuart fans, was the 1999 offering from Marty called The Pilgrim released 15 years ago today. A commercial flop that was poorly-promoted but well-received by all the critics who happened to receive a copy, The Pilgrim produced no singles and no awards, but it wasn’t meant to. This was Marty Stuart flexing his creative muscles, and doing what he wanted to do at the end of a century, and the end of an era.
In 1999, Marty Stuart was at a crossroads. He still had his signature black hair and some semblance of a mainstream career, but the gray was filling in and he was quickly being forgotten by radio. He still was using The Rock & Roll Cowboys as his backing band. It wouldn’t be until his next album that Stuart would saddle up with his long-standing and current outfit The Fabulous Superlatives. The album was his last with MCA Nashville and an opportunity for Marty to do what he wanted, free of the commercial worry of a major label breathing down his neck about delivering on their investment. This brew of circumstances resulted in arguably the Philadelphia, Mississippi native’s crowning opus.
What some don’t know about The Pilgrim, even some of its apostles, is that the linear narrative of the album is based on a true story from Marty Stuart’s hometown. It begins with a man named Norman, characterized as “cross-eyed” but still able to land the town’s most beautiful woman by the name of Rita. When Norman becomes jealous and protective of Rita, she takes to the arms of “The Pilgrim”, who doesn’t know that Rita is married. When Norman finds out about the relationship, he commits suicide, and filled with guilt, The Pilgrim takes to traveling, ending up on the West Coast before returning eventually to be with Rita once more.
Along this journey, Marty Stuart takes the role of Norman, and other characters as he narrates the theme. Helping Marty unfurl the story of The Pilgrim is one of the most impressive collection of legendary country music names this side of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” session. The indelible voice of Emmylou Harris greets listeners early in the album, assuring that The Pilgrim will be full of surprises, turns, and towering contributions. Pam Tillis, George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, and Marty’s former boss and father-in-law Johnny Cash also contribute, with Cash helping to conclude the album with a haunting performance.
The Pilgrim consists of twenty total tracks, including instrumental interludes and recurring “acts” that lend corresponding sonic shades to compliment the arc of the story. And it’s all written by Marty Stuart himself, aside from some contributions here and there from notables like Gary Nicholson, and Mike Campbell (Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers). Other notable musicians lend their talents to the music of The Pilgrim including fiddle player Stuart Duncan and organist Barry Beckett. The instrumentation on the album is nothing short of world class, pulling out all the stops to paint The Pilgrims‘ story in vibrant colors, and endow it with the timeless touch of some of country music’s most noble torch bearers.
In the twenty tracks, The Pilgrim exemplifies tremendous range, almost like an audio timeline of country music’s evolution. From blistering bluegrass-inspired mandolin numbers from Stuart’s nimble fingers, to the more honky-tonk style electric rockers that Marty is known for now and during his near past, to the poetic and smoky surprise of the album, a song called “The Observations of a Crow” that show a beatnik style from Stuart seldom seen, the music of The Pilgrim is in no way an afterthought to the story, and so many of the compositions can be taken out of context and thrive autonomously, and often do when Marty reprises many Pilgrim tracks during live performances; some of them staples of his Marty Stuart Show with The Fabulous Superlatives by his side.
Fifteen years after the release of this somewhat forgotten, but unquestionably iconic album, Marty Stuart looks like the genius for pulling it off, especially when some of the contributors would unfortunately pass on, and others lose the essence of their skills so soon after the release. Whatever financial flops The Pilgrim recorded on the books of MCA Nashville, it did what many other commercially successful albums of the period couldn’t—withstand the test of time, and grew richer with age.
Two guns up!
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Hank Williams III, a.k.a. Hank3 has just embarked on a 15-date east coast tour after an extended period off the road, and joining him will be one of the most respected guitarists in independent music, and one that harkens back to the formative years of Hank3′s “Damn Band.”
Duane Denison is known for lending his guitar maestro talents to such projects as Firewater, the supergroup Tomahawk, and The Legendary Shack Shakers for a period, but most notably Dennison is the lead guitarist for the noise rock band The Jesus Lizard, which landed him on Spin’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time at #79 for being “Tightly controlled yet capable of ripping and tearing like a runaway chainsaw,” and for his “riffs influencing an entire generation of post-hardcore guitarists.”
When The Jesus Lizard disbanded in 1999, Denison began to play in Hank3′s touring band right as 3′s first album Risin’ Outlaw was being released. Denison made the shift to neotraditional country expertly, and became a staple and favorite of the early Hank3 live sound. Hank3 calling out “Denison!” before his solos can be heard in many early videos and live recordings of the band. Duane left the Damn Band in 2001 after seeing a Mr. Bungle concert and being impressed by vocalist Mike Patton (also of Faith No More fame) and joining the supergroup Tomahawk with Patton, John Stanier of Helmet, and Kevin Rutmanis of The Melvins.
Denison later played with Firewater and a band called U.S.S.A. before a stint with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in 2008—the same year The Jesus Lizard reformed. Denison continues to perform with The Jesus Lizard today.
Classically trained, but influenced by a wide variety of styles, Duane Denison earned a degree in classic guitar at Eastern Michigan University, and studied under noted classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. The addition of Denison to Hank3′s Damn Band would definitely make the upcoming shows ones to see.
Denison lends his talents as Hank3′s lineup sees the absence of stand up steel guitar and dobro player Andy Gibson for the first time in many years. Andy also works with many artists as a sound engineer and producer. The other current members of The Damn Band are:
Anthony Galler – Upright Bass (Damn Band & 3)
Daniel Mason – Banjo (Damn Band)
David McElfresh – Fiddle, Steel Guitar (Damn Band), Keyboards (A.D.D.), Guitar (3Bar Ranch)
Duane Denison – Guitar (Damn Band)
Matt Bohli – Drums (Damn Band)
Phillip Cancilla – Drums (3Bar Ranch)
Bobby Hattenburg – Drums (3, A.D.D.)
The upcoming tour is expected to feature two hours of Hank3′s country and hellbilly music, followed by two 30-minute sets of punk-inspired music.
Hank3 Tour Dates:
Duane Denison in an early incarnation of Hank3′s Damn Band:
Whenever the name of country star Jake Owen comes up, it’s quickly proceeded by stories from fans talking about how down-to-earth Jake is for an artist of his stature. From many accounts, Jake Owen goes the extra mile: hanging out with tailgaters before and after shows, taking groups of fans out to unexpectedly on lake trips, and performing other similar gestures that show he doesn’t see himself as better than anyone else.
Last year when country artists began to speak out about the direction of country like never before, Jake Owen became one of the most vocal, taking a couple of occasions to say that country music needed to get back to more substance. In October of 2013, Jake Owen said in part, “We need more songs than just songs about tailgates and fuckinā cups and Bacardi and stuff like that. We need songs that get ourselves back to the format that made me love it . . .” Then in December of 2013, Jake Owen doubled down on his critical comments, saying,
I donāt mean to sound negative. I love country music right now, itās awesome. But Iām guilty of it, too. We all have songs that weāre tending to put out because theyāre working and itās helping our careers. But songs like āThe Thunder Rollsā or John Michael Montgomeryās āLifeās a Dance,ā they were songs that meant something to people. You donāt hear a lot of those songs anymoreā¦.People were like, thatās real. There are so many songs now, and I have them, too, that are [about] sunshine, blue eyes, a tan. Thatās not always real to everyone all the time. Or passing moonshine jars around. People do that when theyāre kids, but people also grow up. . . . Itās important to have all kinds of songs.
Well apparently Jake Owen isn’t just a man of talk, he’s a man of action, and one virtually unknown country artist from Arizona is set to be the beneficiary of Owen’s good nature, and desire to see more substance in the format.
Tony Martinez is a well-seasoned traditional country artist and touring sideman for multiple projects, and by a strange twist of fate, will be filling the time between acts on Jake Owen’s Days of Gold arena tour starting May 15th in Huntington, West Virginia, going until at least late August.
It all started in Arizona at The Phoenix Open golf tournament in Scottsdale the last week of January. Tony was playing a party leading up to the event when Jake Owen saw him.
“Tuesday night there was the draw party for the Pro Am I got to play in,” Jake Owen explains. “So there I was, waiting to find out who we were going to play with, and this guy’s playing a guitar and singing over in the corner of the room you know, and I’m just mesmerized by how badass this guy is. I don’t know him from Adam. I’ve never met him in my life. But I had to go up to him after—I think we ended up getting hammered as hell that night by the way—and I said, ‘Dude, it’s going to be packed at The Bird’s Nest when I play there.’ And I said, ‘I want you to come out on stage with me and sing some badass old school country songs with me for a little bit if that’s okay.’”
So Jake invited Tony Martinez out on stage in front of the 15,000-person capacity crowd at The Bird’s Nest, and the two men proceeded to play the classic country songs “Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed, and Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, TX” while the crowd roared (see below).
After Tony Martinez went over so well, Jake decided to recruit Tony to play between sets while the respective bands on the Days of Gold tour change over. Eli Young Band, and The Cadillac Three also are playing on the current lineup of the Days of Gold tour.
Tony Martinez started out playing as part of the vibrant independent country scene that exists in Phoenix, AZ. The weekly Valley Fever events at the Yucca Tap Room every Sunday night hosted by Dana Armstrong have become a staple of the Phoenix country music scene, and along with Tony Martinez, have also been a proving ground for Ray Lawrence Jr. who landed on a Hank Williams III record a while back, Robert Perez and Junction 10, and many other excellent country artists.
“I met him about 7 years ago when he came to the Yucca with Chip Hanna to play at Valley Fever,” says Valley Fever’s Dana Armstrong “We were all blown away by his raw talent. Since then, he just got better and better and quickly rose to the top of the Arizona country music scene. Not only is he a phenomenal musician and singer, he is also a natural performer. He’s born to be on stage. No matter what he’s playing, he makes it seem effortless, but heartfelt. Never a dull moment when Tony’s on stage.”
Martinez just finished multiple dates playing pedal steel guitar for J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices on the road, and after a recent move to Nashville, has been playing regularly at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn and the Full Moon Saloon on Lower Broadway.
“I was really excited when Jake came to me with the idea of going on his first headlining arena tour,” says Tony Martinez. “It gives me an opportunity to not only play my own songs in front of thousands of people that wouldn’t normally hear them, but also to expose a whole new crowd of people to the kind of music that has fallen by the wayside to the mainstream market. I think that making headway within that demographic is an important step in shifting the mainstream culture. Jake opened the door for me to try and do that. Hopefully I can make some kind of difference.”
Tony Martinez with Jake Owen:
Country music isn’t just a genre of music, it is a musical religion, a way of life, a cultural lineage passed down from generation to generation and preserved through the blood and bond of its performers and fans. That’s why it seems country music performers so very often tend to turn out to be the parents of country music performers themselves.
Let’s take a look at some of country music’s greatest sons and daughters.
Justin Townes Earle
Son of alt-country pioneer Steve Earle, and middle namesake of the man who was good friends with his father and considered one of the greatest songwriters ever, Justin Townes Earle has spent the last seven or so years trying to live up to the lofty expectations of both names, and has done so valiantly. Releasing a startling debut EP in 2007 called Yuma, Earle and his obsession with the craft of songwriting have led to critical success for the five albums he’s released through Bloodshot Records. Considered by many as one of the biggest names in the new generation of alt-country/Americana performers, Justin has done it not by being a chip off the old block, but by forging his own path.
Justin’s relationship with his father has been rocky over the years. Steve Earle left Justin and his mother when Justin was just 2-year-old, and the younger Earle had a tumultuous, troubled, and at times, drug-fueled childhood. But he has soldiered on to carry a name all his own.
The son of Willie Nelson’s long-time guitarist Jody Payne and Grammy Award-winning country music singer Sammi Smith, Waylon is named after his Godfather, Waylon Jennings. Raised by his aunt and uncle due to his parents’ heavy touring schedules, Payne attended seminary after high school and was on track to become a minister before catching the music bug. For a while Payne was part of the popular Eastbound and Down country night at the King King Club in Hollywood where performers would swap classic country songs. Payne later released the album The Drifter in 2004 through Republic Universal.
Music isn’t Waylon Payne’s only creative calling though. He may be known more as an actor than a musician. In the award-winning Johnny Cash film I Walk The Line, Payne played Jerry Lee Lewis. He also played country great Hank Garland in a small film called Crazy, along with making numerous television appearances, including on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Hank Williams III (or Hank3)Ā
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr., if there was ever a spitting image of country music’s first superstar, it would be him. He not only carries the visage and build of Hank Sr., but also the voice and writing style when he wants to go in that direction. The youngest Hank though has a hankering to delve into the wild side of music as well, and has released multiple punk albums during his career that has now stretched into two decades.
Hank3 started out playing drums and guitar in underground punk bands, with no real drive to be a part of the country music machine. But when a paternity suit put him in court, he decided to sign with Curb Records, and entered into a tumultuous period with the label that at the least resulted in multiple landmark records, including the neo-traditional country stalwart Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin’, and his double album opus Straight to Hell. Hank3 is now an independent artist, and carries on the family tradition of doing the music he wants and defying expectation.
The granddaughter of Hank Williams, daughter of Hank Jr., and half sister of Hank Williams III has had a somewhat strange musical journey, but one that has seen her bloom recently to become one of the leading females in country/Americana, keeping the music true to its roots while moving it forward.
Holly’s early career saw her sign to major labels like Universal South and Mercury Nashville, trying to break into the big time, but always seemingly with one foot in, and one foot out of that mainstream approach to music. She was also seriously injured in a near fatal crash in 2006 along with her sister Hilary who also is a performer. Then in February of 2013, Holly released The Highway independently, and since then has become a critical darling and a live performer not to miss. Though there were some that at times wondered if Holly was just a famous name, she’s proven recently that she’s so much more.
The son of Merle Haggard and an official member of Merle’s legendary backing band The Strangers, Ben is a chip off the old block when it comes to slinging Telecasters and perfecting the West Coast, twangy Bakersfield tradition of loud and electric country music. Patterned in the mold of the pioneer of the craft, the under-appreciated Roy Nichols, Ben can be seen plying his craft and staring at the back of his father on any given night out on the road. This isn’t just your usual slot filled by a family member on stage. Ben’s skills are regarded by his musician peers as being standalone from any famous name.
The only child of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Coulter, Shooter started his musical journey in the rock band Stargunn before signing with Universal South in 2005 and releasing his first country record, Put The ‘O’ Back In Country. He subsequently released two more country records infused with some Southern rock & roll before putting out his rock opus, the experimental album Black Ribbons. Shooter re-established his country roots with the 2012 album Family Man, followed up by 2013′s The Other Life.
Like many of country music’s famous sons and daughters, Shooter Jennings marches to his own drum, but always seems to come back to the country music fold.
Jubal Lee Young
Son of legendary Outlaw country songwriter and performer Steve Young (Lonesome, Onry & Mean, Seven Bridges Road), and songwriter Terrye Newkirk, Jubal Lee Young from Muskogee, Oklahoma put out an album in 2011 called Take It Home that included the song “There Ain’t No Outlaws Any More” that loudly proclaims, “Here comes another badass sellinā Nashville rock and roll, long hair, denim and tattoos, lookinā onāry and mean. Singinā songs about that lonesome road, some of āem might even be true. But there aināt no outlaws anymoreā¦”
Hank Williams Jr.
The most obvious and most successful of country music’s greatest sons, Hank Williams Jr. is very likely a future country music Hall of Famer, and has won multiple CMA Entertainer of the Year Awards and sold millions of albums. He started out his career as a virtual impersonator of his famous father, but rebelled against this preordained future to become so much more. Hank Jr. took a precipitous fall off of Ajax Mountain in Montana in 1975, landing on his face, and having to go through multiple surgeries before he could return to performing. And when he did, he quickly became known as “Rockin’” Randall Hank as he emerged with a sound that was just as much Southern rock as country.
In the mid 80′s, Hank Williams Jr. was one of country’s biggest stars, and now sits as a legend in the genre. He also is responsible for two other famous country offspring: Hank Williams III and Holly Williams, and a 2nd daughter Hilary Williams has also been a performer.
The only daughter of the country music super pairing of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Georgette was said to have a recording contract on the day she was born. She recorded her first song at the ripe age of ten with her dad called “Daddy Come Home.” From there Georgette began singing backup for her mom, and she has gone on to become an accomplished songwriter and solo performer herself. Georgette has released numerous albums, including three for Heart of Texas Records. Her latest album Til I Can Make It On My Own is a tribute to her mother.
Georgette also appeared in the TV Series Sordid Lives and recorded numerous songs for the soundtrack, including Tammy Wynette tunes. She also recently released a memoir called The Three of Us: Growing Up with Tammy and George, Georgette Jones.
Daughter of David Allan Coe, Shelli was born in Nashville and raised in Austin, and appeared at the tender age of 3-years-old on her father’s Family Album project. She later worked as a backup singer for her father before landing in Branson, MO for a while where she performed in clubs, collaborated with other songwriters and appeared on the album Branson Songwriters Out in the Streets. Shelli subsequently returned to Austin where she is known to perform off and on. Her first full-length CD A Girl Like Me was released in 2010, and is worth a listen for folks that like traditional country music.
Surrounded by a bevy of musical siblings and one awfully famous father, the argument can be made that Lukas was the Willie offspring that received the most potent douse of Willie’s musical genes, and has a powerful voice to match his father’s. A dynamic, top-flight performer with a sound that trends much closer to rock than country, but still has an earthy, rootsy feel nonetheless, Lukas is on a fast track to becoming a superstar all his own.
From his towering leg kicks, to playing the guitar with his teeth, at only 23-years-old, Lukas could already be crowned as a guitar god. Leading his band The Promise of the Real, they’ve made waves in the music world on big tours. About the only thing holding the young star back is that rock music is in a weird spot right now, and guitar blazers are not what the masses are particularly looking for. But like his father, Lukas is not worried about anything but following his heart, and he promises to have a very bright future ahead of him with a tower of talent to draw from.
Son of Outlaw country legend Billy Joe Shaver, Eddie Shaver was one of the best country music guitar shredders to ever take the stage. Aside from being his fatherās right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakamās guitar player for the first two years of Dwight’s career.
Itās only because of Eddieās untimely death that heās not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.
Though one might first think of June Carter as more of a mother of famous country artists instead of a daughter of them, June Carter is arguably the first daughter of country music. Her mother is “Mother” Maybelle Carter, given her nickname for being the mother of her performing daughters, and arguably the mother of country music. June began performing at the age of ten in 1939 as part of the landmark country outfit The Carter Family. It was through their mutual love of country music that she would eventually meet and fall in love with Johnny Cash, and the two went on to be one of country music’s powerhouse couples. June Carter was a muti-instrumentalist with a classic voice, and defines the nexus between country music’s primitive, classic, and modern eras.
It can be easy to overlook just what kind of impact Rosanne Cash has had on American music over the years. She seems to always be overshadowed by her father, by other famous sons and daughters of country legends, measured against them, and dogged by preceding labels that donāt always allow her to be judged on her own merit, while her musical accomplishments veer towards being somewhat misunderstood because sheās not always been nestled smack dab in the country realm as people want, expect, or anticipate.
But Rosanneās critical and commercial accomplishments are far more than complimentary, they define a very successful career: Eleven #1 country singles, twenty-one Top 40 singles, and thirteen Grammy nominations is nothing to sniff at, and ultimately might at least get her mentions as a potential Hall of Fame inductee.
The only offspring between the country music super marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter, John Carter Cash has spent his time as a singer and performer, but many of his important contributions to country music have come behind-the-scenes as a producer, songwriter, author, and general champion of the Cash estate and all things country music. It’s remarkable how many places you see John Carter’s name attached to projects as his puts effort out to make music happen in whatever capacity he can help in. Like his father, he has that selfless streak of service that surfaces in some of the most generous and cool ways.
Bobby Bare Jr.
Born in Nashville, TN to the original Outlaw Bobby Bare, Bobby Bare Jr. grew up next door to Tammy Wynette and George Jones in Hendersonville, and was nominated for a Grammy next to his father for the Shel Silverstein-written song “Daddy What If” from his father’s tribute album to Silverstein. Fronting roots rock bands like “Bare Jr.” and “Young Criminals Starvation League”, Bare’s career has been the result of avoiding “working a real job at any cost,” despite earning a psychology degree from the University of Tenessee, and not really getting deep into his own music until later in life. His high energy on stage and dark sarcasm in his songs have won him fans worldwide.
Other Famous Sons & Daughters:
Pam Tillis – 1994 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and daughter of country great Mel Tillis
The Carter Family Daughters – Carlene Carter, Helen Carter, Anita Carter, Rosie Nix Adams.
Jett Williams – Daughter of Hank Williams that found out about her famous father later in life. Jett has been a performer and plays an important role as one of the executors of the Hank Williams estate.
Jesse Keith Whitley – Son of Lorrie Morgan and Keith Whitley
Marty Haggard, Noel Haggard, and Scott Haggard- More performing sons of Merle.
Dean Miller – Son of Roger Miller
Lilly Hiatt – Daughter of John Hiatt
Chelsea Crowell – Daughter of Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell
Paula Nelson – Leader of The Paul Nelson Band.
Tyler Mahan Coe – Guitar player and writer who spent years touring in his father’s band.
Folk Uke – Made up Willie Nelson’s daughter Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter Cathy.
Whey Jennings – The son of Terry Jennings, and grandson of Waylon Jennings.
Lucas Hubbard – Son of Ray Wylie Hubbard who often plays lead guitar with his father.
Lucky Tubb – Not technically a son or daughter, but a great nephew of Ernest.
Bluegrass – There are many performing sons and daughters of famous bluegrass musicians, but for fear of forgetting some and getting yelled at for it, this sentence is in dedication to them all. You rock! Or pick, or strum, or pluck! Go YOU!
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. falls in line with the other country artists covered in Saving Country Music “10 Badass Moments” series by being a rough and tumble character both on and off the stage, but also in showing great character by giving back and using his famous name for good.
Here’s 10 Badass Moments from Shelton Hank Williams III, or Hank3.
1. Playing Charity Concerts for Homes For Our Troops
When you heard that The Marines had been called to the Hank3 concert at The Meridian in Houston, TX in March of 2010, you could only expect the worst. After all, the son of Hank has been known to throw some pretty rowdy shows. But the occasion that called for a military dispatch including a Marine Color Guard was not an unruly crowd. It was meant to honor Hank3 for donating all the proceeds from the concert to the charity Homes For Our Troops that provides housing to wounded veterans. And this wouldn’t be the last time. Hank3 has also done other charity shows for Homes For Our Troops, as well as animal rescue organizations (see below).
Pretty cool moment before The Meridian show:
2. Playing For 5 Straight Hours at The Valarium in Knoxville
Hank3 is known for his long, sometimes 3-hour+ shows with only a 5 to 10 minute break between his country and his punk/metal lineups, but this particular set was one for the record books.
Exactly what happened at The Valarium in Knoxville, TN on July 15th, 2009 that stimulated Hank3′s marathon, 5-hour set depends on who you talk to. But when Hank’s manager, assistant manager, and five other people were arrested for “disorderly conduct,” Hank3 felt the best way to protest the injustice was by playing one of the longest sets in the history of country music. Without any break, Hank3 held forth with his “Damn Band” staring at 10:00 PM Wednesday night, and the music didn’t stop until almost 3 AM Thursday morning. When Hank3 ran out of material with his band, he switched to an acoustic show and kept on going.
The show went so long, an after party at the adjacent Cider House featuring the local band J.C. and the Dirty Smokers didn’t start until 2 AM, and nobody was there. “Basically, I said, āSince weāre already set up and already have a stage, we might as well work on a couple of originals,ā Dirty Smokers frontman J.C. Haun said at the time. āSo we ended up having a rehearsal, basically.ā
And as if Hank3 hadn’t already done enough, he called Valarium owner Gary Mitchell after the show to apologize for not playing the Assjack metal portion of the show. “He felt like heād stiffed his hardcore fans,ā Mitchell told the Metro Pulse.
3. Playing Charity Concerts for Animal Rescue
For years Hank3 has been playing charity concerts to benefit animal shelters in his home of middle Tennessee. āWe are thrilled that Hank3 would support our mission,” says Kat Hitchcock, who has worked with numerous animal shelters in the area. “He doesnāt just support it, he lives it. He is a genuine advocate for animal welfare. We are extremely fortunate. We canāt thank him enough.ā
The 4th show Hank3 played to benefit Happy Tails Humane in Franklin, TN was on August 3rd, 2012 at the Marathon Music Works in Nashville, and raised a whopping $18,000 for the organization. A DVD was also made of the event, and you can watch the entire footage of the concert below:
4. Taking In Stray / Abandoned Animals
Beyond throwing benefit concerts over the years for animal rescue, Hank3 has been known to pull his tour bus over to check on stray animals, and take them in if the proper owner can’t be found, or use his famous name to help find the furry friends a new home. Hank3 goes beyond the call for animals, and over the years it has become his pet issue (arf arf). Check out this PSA he made a couple of years back.
5. The “Fuck Curb” Campaign
Hank3ā²s entire 14-year career with Curb Records was filled with turmoil. The first major conflict arose over an album called This Aināt Country. Hank3 turned it into Curb, just to have Mike Curb deem it was not fit for release. Curb shelved the album, and then released it after Shelton left the label and after heād fulfilled his contractual obligation for the number of releases. It was a way for Curb to squeeze another album out of Hank3ā²s contract.
Hank3ā²s 3rd album Thrown Out of the Bar was slated to be released in late 2004, but Curb refused to issue it. This prompted Hank3 to start a āFuck Curbā campaign that included T-Shirts, stickers, and the words āFuck Curbā written prominently on Hank3ā²s guitar. Hank3 also took Curb to court, and like so many other artists with Mike Curb grievances, the court found in favor of Hank3 and made Curb issue the album that was later reworked into the album Straight to Hell. Curb also delayed the release of Hank3ā²s 4th album Damn Right, Rebel Proud for undetermined reasons, and since Hank had signed a non-defamation clause to his contract to get Straight to Hell released, he couldnāt even speak out against Curbās actions.
At the time Hank3 was seen as a foul-mouthed yob. But since then, public issues arising with Curb Records and many of its artists, especially Tim McGraw, shows that Hank3 was ahead of his time, and that his salty language was warranted.
6. Including Three Songs by Wayne “The Train” Hancock On His First Record
On Hank3′s first solo record Risin’ Outlaw from 1999, he included 3 songs from one of his early mentors and heroes, Texas singer-songwriter and the King of Juke Joint Swing, Wayne “The Train” Hancock. By including “87 Southbound,” “Thunderstorms & Neon Signs,” and “Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone,” it introduced Wayne Hancock to a whole new generation, and a whole new segment of fans. It also would help Wayne with what songwriters call “mailbox money”—royalties from song credits—for years to come.
7. Calling Out Kid Rock
In his song “Not Everybody Likes Us” from the album Straight to Hell, Hank3 calls out Kid Rock, saying:And just so you know, so it’s set in stone, Kid Rock don’t come from where I come from. Yeah it’s true he’s a Yank, he ain’t no son of Hank, and if you though so goddamn you’re fuckin’ dumb.
The anger was stimulated when Hank3′s father, Hank William Jr., began to refer to Kid Rock as his “Rebel Son” around 2002. At the time, Kid Rock and Hank Jr. were collaborating together on music. The “Rebel Son” talk stimulated rumors that Kid Rock truly was another son of Hank Jr., and Hank3 got tired of answering the rumors. It all boiled over one night at a show in Kid Rock’s home of Detroit when Kid Rock and his fling at the time Pamela Anderson tried to board Hank3′s bus to patch things up between Hank3 and Hank Jr.
Hank3 told Blender Magazine in 2006:
…he kept trying to come on the bus—you know, him and Pam [Anderson] and all that shit —and I said, “Tell that motherfucker I got nothing to say to him,” and then he finally gets his way back in there and tells me how I need to be treating my father and I’m like, “All right, you just crossed the line motherfucker.” And I don’t know how many times I have to say it: “No, he’s not my fucking brother…
8. Recording The Album Straight to Hell DIY Style
Considered Hank3′s opus, Straight to Hell released in February of 2006 was recorded on a $400 consumer-grade Korg D-1600 machine in Hank3′s steel guitar player’s house. It was the first true DIY recording made outside of the conventional studio setting to ever be released through a country music major label and the Country Music Association. It was also the first album to be put out through the CMA with a Parental Advisory sticker.
The point was not just for Hank3 to gain control of his own music, but to inspire a generation of new artists to do the same thing, to see that they didn’t need to sign big deals and have lots of money to make and release music. And that’s exactly what it did.
9. Standing Up to the Grand Ole Opry
For years Hank3 has been trying to get The Grand Ole Opry to show respects to his grandfather by reinstating him into the institution he loved so dearly. Hank Williams was kicked out of the Opry for drunkenness and missing rehearsals with the idea that once he sobered up, he could be reinstated. Unfortunately Hank Williams never got that opportunity. He died on New Years Day, 1953 as an ostracized member of the institution he helped bring to prominence.Ā All Hank3 is asking is a symbolic gesture be made to the legacy of Hank Williams by reinstating him to the Grand Ole Opry, also known as Reinstate Hank. The issue has also come to symbolize the fight to keep the purity ofĀ The Grand Ole Opry institution alive.
10. Shaking Every Hand And Signing Every Album After Shows
This may not sound like some altruistic task for some artists whose shows stretch to top 75 attendees, but when you’re constantly selling out concerts with hundreds of tickets sold, and every one of those people wants to meet you, this simple gesture has become one of Hank3 signature symbols of showing how he’s willing to go the extra mile for his fans, sometimes patiently spending many hours after two and three hour performances to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures.
BONUS – 11. Playing Bass for Phil Anselmo’s Superjoint Ritual
Showing that the show didn’t need to be all about him, while Hank3 was fighting with Curb Records and trying to get his album This Ain’t Country released, he took his friend Phil Anselmo—the former lead singer of Pantera—up on the offer to join his band Superjoint Ritual on bass. Between 2002 and 2004, Hank3 could be seen banging his head on stage as a side man in concerts across the country. When Superjoint Ritual shut down around 2004 and Hank3 returned to the country world and released the album Straight to Hell, he showed legions of punk and heavy metal fans the virtues of traditional country music and created many country music converts.
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. is having to deal with yet another post-contract release from Curb records, this time called Rambin’ Man, slated for release on April 1st. Insert your April Fool’s jokes here. The album will include 8 tracks of outtakes, unreleased material, and cover songs Hank3 contributed to tribute albums and other projects during his Curb years. Most of the music is stuff Hank3 fans have already heard, repackaged to look like a new album.
Hank3 entered into a 6 album contract with Curb in the late 90ā²s after a child custody suit and a judge forced him to get a āreal jobā. Curb was able to stretch Hank3ā²s album count to 7 by releasing Hillbilly Joker in 2011; a āhellbillyā album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. Then Curb released an outtakes album in 2012 called Lone Gone Daddy that brought the total of Curb releases on Hank3′s 6-album contract to 8. Ramblin’ Man would make it 9.
With the news of the release of Long Gone Daddy, Hank3 fans knew Curb still had unreleased material from the 3rd generation star, because a cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)” that was rejected on his Damn Right, Rebel Proud album had yet to surface. Though Curb decided at the time that the cover song was not fit for public consumption, similar to how they rejected Hank3′s Hillbilly Joker album altogether, they see perfectly fit to release the song now on this new record.
Hypothetically, Ramblin’ Man would be the last of Hank3′s material from the Curb era, though the inevitable “Greatest Hits” card has yet to be played by the label.
Some other interesting notes from the track list: “On My Own” was a song from Hank3′s previous Curb record Risin’ Outlaw. “Ramblin’ Man” is a song by Hank Williams that Hank3 once recorded a cover of with The Melvins, as was Merle Haggards “Okie From Muskogee”. “Fearless Boogie” is a ZZ Top song Hank3 once covered on the tribute Sharp Dressed Men. “Marijuana Blues” originally appeared on Rare Breed: The Songs of Peter LaFarge.
Hank3 has previously encouraged fans to burn these albums and share them instead of buy them. He’s also indicated intention to release new material in 2014.
Ramblin’ Man Track List:
- Ramblin’ Man
- Fearless Boogie
- Okie From Muskogee
- The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)
- On My Own [Full Length Version]
- Marijuana Blues
- Hang On
- Runnin’ & Gunnin’
The country song protesting the direction of country music has in many respects just as much tradition and lineage in country music now as many of the genre’s other defining elements. From Waylon Jennings’ #1 single “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” in 1975, to the song “Murder on Music Row” that was the CMA Song of the Year in 2001, to Dale Watson and Hank Williams III’s recent chest-pounding protest songs, as long as the business of country music has been trying to veer the music off of its true path, there’s been artists willing to take a bold stand and speak out against it.
In many ways the country protest song has become so prolific in its own right, sometimes they can trend toward cliche in a somewhat similar vein to the songs they are looking to criticize. But to see such sentiment coming from a 15-year-old songwriter and performer in an original composition speaks to both the depth and degree of country music’s current wayward trajectory, and the wisdom and talent of the songwriter and performer penning such a tune.
Williamson Branch is a bluegrass and country band from Nashville, and their 15-year-old fiddle and guitar player Melody Williamson recently wrote a song called “There’s No Country Here.” Despite her age, Music Row would be wise to remove themselves for their laundry list clatter and listen to what the future of country music has to say about where country music is headed.
5 out of 5 stars.
After releasing a total of seven Greatest Hits releases in an attempt to keep Tim McGraw under contract indefinitely, after refusing to release his last album on the label Emotional Traffic, after insisting McGraw owed them yet another album and losing virtually every court case and decision while in a protracted legal battle with both McGraw and his new label Big Machine Records, finally releasing Emotional Traffic after they had found out they had lost, and releasing a duets album in an attempt to counteract Big Machine’s first Tim McGraw release, Curb Records is releasing yet another album from Tim McGraw; an artist that hasn’t called Curb Records home officially for over 2 years.
The album will be called Love Story and will feature Tim McGraw’s “12 biggest love songs,” two previously-unreleased recordings, and will be released exclusively through Wal-Mart on February 2nd, 2014.
Mike Curb and Curb Records have a long list of transgressions against their artists, refusing to release music in a timely manner to keep artists under contract, repackaging music to mislead consumers, and releasing music against the wishes of their artists. Along with Tim McGraw, Frank Zappa, The Beat Farmers, LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams Jr., Hank Williams III, Jo Dee Messina, Clay Walker, Lyle Lovett, and others help comprise a long list of Mike Curb’s transgressions against artists.
- It’s You Love – Featuring Faith Hill
- Just To See You Smile
- My Best Friend
- When The Stars Go Blue
- She’s My Kind Of Rain
- Not A Moment Too Soon
- Watch The Wind Blow By
- My Little Girl
- Tiny Dancer
- I Just Love You (Previously Unreleased)
- What About You (Previously Unreleased)
***UPDATE (12-5-13 2:00 PM CST): Ray Lawrence Jr. daughter has been found after being missing for 12 days.
“THANK YOU to all the people who have posted and shared and got the word out,” says Ray “Anna is safe and alive. Your prayers, support and love was a great comfort to me and my family members. It has been a long couple of weeks for us all. Anna is back home and she is safe. May many blessings come to all of you. I will NEVER forget your kindness and love. THANK YOU!!!”
“On behalf of my entire family we would like to thank each and everyone one of you for sharing this page. For your many prayers and concern for Rayanna. We are happy to report that Anna has returned and she is safe. Our prayers have been answered. So thank you so much for all you did in helping us find Anna. Out of respect for my niece I will keep her experiences private. She has been through alot and would like her privacy. We are just thankful she is back and safe. We love her very much. Thank you. Rhonda”
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Country music songwriter and performer Ray Lawrence Jr. who gained recognition when Hank Williams III included two of Ray’s songs on his 2011 album Ghost to a Ghost has a daughter who has been missing since November 23rd in the Phoenix area.
Rayanna Lynette Lawrence, aka “Anna” is 14-years-old female, with a date-of-birth of September 2nd, 1999, and stands 4’11″ tall with blue eyes. She is considered an endangered runaway and was last seen in the Phoenix, AZ area. Anybody who has seen Anna or may have information about her whereabouts is asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department at (602) 262-7626.
“I never thought in a million years I would be posting about one of my kids missing,” Ray Lawrence Jr. posted on Facebook. “Hurt is an understatement. Damn these tears I need to post. I now know what it feels like to not know where a child is or if she is alive. If she just ran away looking for attention or if she was kidnapped or even worse. When it is your child it goes to a whole new level and the emotion is very high.”
Anna is considered a troubled youth who potentially ran away, and foul play is not suspected at the moment, making it a low priority for authorities to find the missing girl. However this is no consolation for Ray Lawrence Jr. and his family who have no guarantee Anna is not in danger, or isn’t being held against her will. “Just another runaway kid,” says Ray. “This is what I will hear a lot of. If my daughter had been kidnapped it would be a different story. There are many children missing and to me every damned one is important.”
Mamie Warner, aka Mamie White, sister of Dancing Outlaw Jesco White, and one of the main characters in the 2009 Johnny Knoxville-produced film The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia has been arrested in Boone County on numerous charges. Mamie was taken into custody on November 8th for first offense driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and assault and battery of a police officer with a weapon. She was taken to the Southwestern Regional Jail in Holden, WV and placed on $25,000 bond.
Mamie had a very small appearance in the original The Dancing Outlaw movie that was released through PBS in 1991 that began the cultural fascination with the White family of West Virginia, and eventually landed her brother Jesco appearances on the TV show Rosanne and other high profile roles. In 2009′s The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, Mamie was arguably the focal point of the film as the family’s matriarch after the passing of her mother, Bertie Mae White. Mamie commonly acts as de facto manager and liason for her brother Jesco, who was also arrested near the release of Wild & Wonderful Whites, but all the charges against Jesco were later dropped.
The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia explicitly depicts Mamie White, and other members of the White family abusing and selling prescription drugs and other illegal substances. Since the release of the film, Mamie and other White Family members have distanced from the depictions, and claimed they were taken advantage of by the film. Mamie told the Coal Valley News, “Iām not happy with the scenes of drug use and neither is Jesco…We havenāt gotten enough from Johnny Knoxville to amount to anything.ā
The Whites have appeared in songs by numerous country music artists, including Big & Rich, and Hank Williams III who also appeared in the Wild & Wonderful Whites film, but later distanced from the film as well.
The inaugural inductees to the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame set to open inĀ the Spring of 2014 in Lynchburg, TN have been unveiled. In an eventĀ carried live during a 3-day concert in Altamont, TN, the 17 initial inductees were announcedĀ in two different categories: Pioneers/Innovators (Pre-1970), and Highwaymen (1970-1990).
Along with the official inductees, the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame also announced Guardian Award winners. The Guardian Award is not a Hall of Fame induction, but a one-year award meant to honor an artist’sĀ hard work and unwavering commitment to their music and their fans and best exemplify the tradition of those who came before them. The Hall of Fame also announced that fans will be able to vote on Guardian Award winners in the upcoming years.
OUTLAW HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
- Hank Williams Sr.
- Loretta Lynn
- The Carter FamilyĀ
- Bobby Bare
- Chris GantryĀ
- Willie Nelson
- Waylon Jennings
- David Allan Coe
- Kris Kristofferson
- Merle Haggard
- Johnny Cash
- Johnny Paycheck
- Sammi SmithĀ
- Steve Young
- Jessi Colter
- Hank Williams Jr.Ā
- Billy Joe Shaver
- Dallas Moore
- Wayne Mills
- Hank Williams III
- Jamey Johnson
- Whitey MorganĀ
The Hall of Fame is dedicated to those artists, both musicians and songwriters, whose work best exemplifies the qualities of the Outlaw movement that first began in the 1970ā²s and has gained renewed momentum as an alternative to the current Nashville pop country scene. In doing so it will place the spotlight on music firmly attached to the roots of country. Moreover, the Hall of Fame will educate the public about Outlaw country, memorialize founders of the genreāsuch as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Jessi Colterārecognize current Outlaw artists, and provide a platform for them and for the independent record labels who currently have little if any voice in the industry.
The facility, due to open in spring of 2014, will encompass more than 5,000 square feet and feature a state-of-the-art layout, including interactive displays. There will also be a studio to allow for live broadcasts to be streamed over the Internet. Located on the town square in Lynchburg, the Outlaw Music Hall ofĀ Fame will sponsor a concert series each April to November to showcase independent roots country artists.
Few things get people talking in the independent channels of country music like a Hank3 release. From his neotraditional days in the early 2000′s when he had traditionalists singing his praises, to his magnum opus Straight to Hell from 2006 that saw his punk and metal influences bleed over into a hard country approach, to his last few releases that have become a polarizing subject with many fans—some still saying he’s the torchbearer and king of underground country, while others speak about the quality issues and lack of diversity in the lyricism.
The first observation that must be given about Brothers of the 4×4 is just how much music is included here. The album contains 16 songs—a big bushel to begin with. But then factor in that out of those 16 songs, 9 of them are over 5 minutes, 7 of them are over 6 minutes, 3 of them are over 7 minutes, and one, which happens to be the opening track, clicks in at 8:34. Forget scaling music for radio play, Brothers of the 4×4 is the country music equivalent to a rock opera, with wide, sweeping, monster undertakings of music, playing out grooves with fiddle, banjo, and guitars trading breaks until their exhaustive end. This approach in itself is an expression of creativity and a new direction for country that is more akin to a Frank Zappa, or Grateful Dead approach, but without the heady, or space jam baggage.
And according to Hank3, he wrote, recorded, mixed, and mastered this entire album, along with a completely separate punk album called A Fiendish Threat in 4 months. Though this may be unusual for the country crowd, this isn’t unusual if you go back and look at the output and approach a Frank Zappa would take with his music for example. And that’s the vein this album should be taken in—one of a late 60′s, early 70′s experimental project as opposed to a straight-laced 3-chords and the truth-type approach to 3-minute country songs.
But the breadth of the project lends to Brothers of the 4×4‘s biggest problem, which is the same problem with many of Hank3′s latest releases: quality control.
If this album was boiled down to maybe half of its current weight, and just a little more time was spent on whatever was left, you very well may have a 2 guns up, 5 star album here. But because you have to wade through a decent amount of chaff, and because Hank3 goes to similar wells so many times, by the end of the album he is showing his hand in places, and your ears are physically tired. At the same time Hank3 achieves some moments that harken back to his golden era in the early and mid 2000′s, while still forging new ground and achieving new marks that he will struggle to meet in the future.
Beyond the volume that Hank3 seems to be trying to achieve, there are two main issues keeping him from putting out another landmark album. The first is that he continues to insist on using the same consumer-grade Korg D1600 tracking machine that he recorded Straight to Hell on nearly a decade ago, even though there are much better means for home recording that would in no way impinge on his DIY, home recording philosophy. The continuance of the D1600 era casts a film on all of his recordings from its inferior technology, while still not giving it the warmth an analog recording affords, which is the “new” old way of making records.
Second, he’s not writing songs, he’s writing music, and then putting words on top of that music to make songs. Or at least this is the way the priority of things comes across in the music. We see the appearance of the same tired phrases and themes that felt original and fresh on Straight to Hell, but now are beyond tired. But to Hank3′s credit, there seems to be fewer of these songs on Brothers of the 4×4 than you would expect. Hank3 exists in a very unique niche of music, where he takes bold, creative leaps sonically and structurally, while sometimes residing in a very predictable place lyrically. The most unfortunate part of this is it clouds people’s perspectives from seeing just how progressive and downright groundbreaking Hank3 can be, evidenced on the other half of his last country record, Guttertown. His core audience is hellraising rednecks, and this isn’t the place you would traditionally look for progressive country being pushed to its cutting edge.
Another big point to make about Brothers of the 4×4 is that it is very, very country. His famous yodel makes a reappearance, though it is run through a megaphone-sounding filter to help bolster the tone. Maybe the album’s greatest achievement is once again striking that balance he struck so well in Straight to Hell, where he brought his punk and metal influences right up to crossing the line, but still kept the music solidly country. That accomplishment is what won Hank3 the widest audience in underground country, and he does it again on this album.
When it comes to the songs themselves, Brothers of the 4×4 is somewhat of a mixed bag, but with more good points than bad. “Broken Boogie” is downright epic, and must be named in the same breath with Hank3′s other signature songs. Unlike some of the album’s other 6 and 7-minute tracks, the lyrics are actually an asset instead of a detriment, and the song achieves an infectiousness and depth that sucks you into a fully-immersive musical experience. The sparse, mandolin-driven “Gettin’ Dim” is the shortest song on the album, but holds just as much boldness as it’s longer counterparts. I kept waiting for the 8-minute opening track “Nearly Gone” to turn boring, but it never does, driven by Hank3′s rediscovered yodel. “Possum in a Tree,” though in no way a deep or meaningful song, is still one of the album’s fun ones, featuring banjo legend Leroy Troy.
On the other side of the coin, “Hurtin’ For Certin’” just may be one of the worst songs Hank3′s has every written, with completely contrived lyrics and music set in a register that is unflattering to Hank3′s tone. Songs like “Toothpickin’,” “Outdoor Plan,” and the title track “Brothers of the 4×4″ are big offenders of going to the whole “runnin’ and gunnin’” and “lookin’ for a good time” set of themes that have become Hank3′s substandard signature. But something about their approach on this particular album makes the lyrics either more tolerable, or at least forgivable, because the music is just so much fun. This is a fun album more than anything, and the listener should approach it as such.
Yes, Hank3 is as an isolated and disconnected artist to the rest of the music world as you will ever find. When he’s not on tour, I picture him perpetually mowing his lawn in east Nashville with his fingers in his ears, unbeknownst to the groundswell of resurgent roots artists that is happening right in his own neighborhood. Would he benefit from some slightly new equipment and a few more voices in the room as he’s recording? No doubt, and this is not because he lacks creativity or fresh ideas, it is because he doesn’t. But just like we all do, it takes feedback and collaboration to see those ideas come to their most ideal fruition, and compromises should be made to make those collaborations possible and foster an environment of growth.
But whether it is because the expectations are lowered, because the album is more country than his last, or because Hank3 has found a way to re-ignite his creative spark, Brothers of the 4×4 symbolizes a retrenching of Hank3 as a creative force in country, capable of generating inspiring moments in music. It’s just a shame you have to dig somewhat to find them.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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