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Review: New Orleans Crowd Meets Two Sides of Hank Williams III

There are two men living within Hank III. One is the grandson of the greatest singer in Country Music history. And while, Hank III may be a third generation of musical royalty, Hank III is certainly no slouch, his songs are more tear jerky, or barroom rowdy than any manure on the radio. With his lanky gait, and throaty moan that so eerily mirrors Williams Sr, Hank III is a authentic country music outlaw, and his talent is natural unlike others that were lucky enough to have the name, but none of the forbearers talent.

The other side of the coin is the more maniacal, darker, venom dripping Hank Williams III, that steps far away from the twang of country, and into the cold, dark clutches of heavy metal, and punk rock. Fast riffs, odd time signatures, and bitter lyrics show the more Mr. Hyde side of the musical equation.

New Orleans was privy to both versions of Mr. Shelton Hank Williams III when his tour struck terror into the security staff at the House of Blues down on Decatur Street, and the gloved pat downs remained nice and thorough. Throngs of scary looking patrons with rebel flags patched onto their worn jean jackets filled the bars, ordering copious amounts of whiskey, and strong beer.

The greasy haired rockabilly dudes posted up on the sidelines to watch the cavemen duke it out in center of the floor. A few old timers with Stetsons even made an appearance for the evening. It was a family affair you see, a dysfunctional family, but kin, nonetheless.

With no opening act, Williams, and his boys ripped through a phenomenal collection of paramount classics of his catalog with little banter in between. Like gunshots tearing through the already chaos infused swamp air, Williams’s band attacked their catalog of southern fried fuck you at full volume, full intake, and with no condom. The pleasure was plentiful.  Sinfully delightful, it was backwoods bible with a preacher on bended knee hootin’ and hollerin’ for salvation, and the wisdom to follow. Only this church wasn’t looking up above as Hank’s granddaddy like to sing about, these fires were down below where the flames are black. Guitars were strummed at the pace of what wrists would allow, and the drums blasted away.

People sang louder than the band could play, over priced beer was spilled, joints were fired up, and bodies smashed into one another as if Slayer were on stage. Songs like “D Ray White”, “3 shades of black”, “A little bit of Smoke” and, some of his newer pieces like “Gutter town” were churned out, and with every note, the crowd grew hotter. It was a splendid place to be for a redneck jamboree.

As the first set was wrapped up, and the acoustics were put away, the second act of the night was about to begin. The rowdy, Hellbilly Hank that people had paid to see did his shuck and jive, and all were well fed with glorious music, and strong drink. What lied next was something entirely polar. The massive projection flat screen came down, and the lights grew dim, visions of strange, illusions flashed across the screen like a great B movie, or a lousy art school project, the maudlin was somewhere in between. Robots and pig fucking weirdoes everywhere on display, as my coconspirator, and I swallowed more of our drinks, we waited for the next shoe to drop. Out came a long fuzz, a droning, wailing thud. The A.D.D. portion of the program had begun. Like all Hank 3 performances, both sides of his twisted psyche are on trial, and some times, it’s more super ego than ego, but tonight, it was the id.

(Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organised, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralising role.)

Long, churns of dying guitar riffage slammed through the speakers affixed toward the audience’s eardrums. For the next 25 minutes, we watched as Williams, now without his cowboy hat, and hair pulled out, and wet, ominously hanging over his face, slugged his way through a marathon of slow, droning stoner metal. The Hyde was out, and as the squares who only wanted to hear the country stuff headed to the door. The rest of us took hits of the good stuff, and kept on, seeing where this might end.

Williams is a hard man to pigeon hole, his songs are extremely diverse, and the spastic speed metal he was known for with Assjack was nothing like what the material he was showcasing with A.D.D. It was more Sleep, than Eyehategod, or Kyuss. The rich grooveage of the aforementioned bands weren’t actually what he seemed to be going for, and doubtedly honestly cared if anyone got. Following the eons long sludge, the next scene was set for the Three Bar Ranch – Cattle Callin’ portion where, quite literally, actual cattle calls are played over grind core. It was a little ill practiced, and sloppy on the performance side. The thought is funny for a novelty, but in practicality, it didn’t work. The first half of the performance seemed more musical and complete. The second half was more like a trans media art exhibit put on by hip dudes in their loft. At times, you felt like you “got it” but others you quite weren’t sure. What Hank 3 is leaving us with is a career that will continue to have many sharp turns, and more smoke, and alcohol per volume than the average human can ingest, let us wait and see where he may go on this twisted journey. Every thing can’t work all of the time, and no one would left unsatisfied. The A. D. D. portion was a grey area of subconscious, and mentally pornographic, the country set was what people paid money to see, so in all actuality, they got two shows for one, and without a terrible opening band. Hank 3 has a lot more stories to tell, and till then, we’ll just….ride along with him in the cloud of smoke he leaves behind.

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