Hank Williams III

Hank Williams III
Talkin’ Deep Blues

By Elliott Morehardt
September 2011

I had the pleasure of headin' south recently and diggin' around for local bands. My hope of finding some old veterans to fill my "deep blues" needs went unfulfilled, but I did have the distinct pleasure of seeing some guy named Hank Williams ... name sounds familiar. Otherwise known as Hank III, old Hiram's grandson reminds one of the original in more ways than one. Fresh off recording 4 albums (yes, 4) in his home studio, Hank III is clearly on a mission from God (so to speak). Playing at Nashville's Exit/In club, he had no time for an opening act since his three sets went on for over 3 hours. A night of Hank III starts off with rousing country hillgrass, with lots of references to drinkin', smokin', and generally havin' a hell of a time. Hardly pausing between songs, Hank kept the energy moving but knew when to slow things down before getting the crowd pumped up again.

Highlights of the first set were “Country Heroes”, “Three Shades Of Black”, “Mississippi Mud”, and “Troopers Holler”, a real standout with Hank on banjo. The crowd was rowdy, then all hell broke loose (in a good way) when Hank busted out the electric guitar and went into his "hellbilly" set. It’s not all that different from the first set, but the crowd took the cue and the obligatory mosh pits were in full form. The biggest difference I could see between that night and my old 80's Boston days was that there were more women moshin' it up—cool! Only one or two guys got out of hand and Hank wisely shut the band down to a whisper till a gentleman was escorted out ... that's gotta be humiliating! Kudos to the club’s liberal but firm attitude and excellent air conditioning, which some of our Boston clubs could sorely use.

After two-plus hours of playing, the band exited for Hank’s 2 piece ADD set. A big slide show of vintage reels and monster movies started up, portending doom, and Hank returned to stage working his detuned guitar, the now-shirtless drummer still pounding away furiously. Filled with lots of doom mood and styling, it was both fun and creepy with Hank’s alto voice turning into an eerie quiver. Like a cross between the Melvins and Godflesh, the fast drum beats and sludge guitar did get a bit disturbing after awhile. Some folks like myself made an exit after 20 minutes or so, as the massive amount of bass got into sensory overload territory. There’s something about fast double-bass drums and slow mudcore guitar that confuses the ears and body. Ya can't mosh to that so I would have dug more rhythm in the Godflesh vein while maintaining the heavy chords ... just sayin’. All that said, Hank III puts on one hell of a show, and there's no excuse to miss one!

The next day my girlfriend and I headed to Oxford, MS, a surreal blend of historic hill country blues territory and pasty white Ol’ Miss preppies. The town’s a whole lot less rustic than I’d hoped for but if you go, check out the smoked catfish salad at the old Ajax Diner. There’s plenty of nightlife but not much blues, though we did catch a great local band, Jay and the Devils Due. Steeped in hill country style and buds with T Model Ford, Jay’s fiery slide guitar and very cool array of vintage axes was a pleasure to see and hear. Ya gotta work to find the right spots down south, but boy is it worth it. See y’all real soon!

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