I’ve been looking forward to September 6th for a while now. I guess it was about two months ago when I heard that the guy that almost defines the word “badass,” Hank3 was releasing a whopping four records on his own label. Hank3 is of course the grandson of Hank Williams Sr. and son of Hank Jr. and over the course of his career he’s released both country and metal records with his harder discs each being more messed up than the last. He’s formed Assjack, drums with Arson Anthem and played bass with Superjoint Ritual. Needless to say, he’s eclectic. While he doesn’t have the voice of Dad or Grandpa, he definitely has musical talent and a vision to kick ass like his old man but executes the ass-kickin’ in a bit of a different manner.
Four albums at once intrigued me. You never really know what you’re going to get out of Hank, so with this many records it seemed to be almost a certainty that there would be something a little “out there.” So let’s address that one first. It’s called 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ and is a distorted mind fuck of speed metal, noise and occasionally Hank’s high-pitched vocals over, yep, Cattle Calls. I’m positively certain that this is first and last time I will ever cover a record that features any type of cattle calling and if it wasn’t from Hank3, I certainly wouldn’t have bothered. But Hank somehow makes this tolerable.
All 23 tracks on the album feature an actual cattle call (essentially a livestock auction), some of them blisteringly fast with distorted speed metal on top of the call. Some of the tracks feature no other vocals, others feature Hank going ballistic over them. Multiple times on the disc he has the instrumental version and the vocal version both present. And while you really can’t understand one word of what he’s saying, you know it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek based on the titles of the tracks, like “Moo You,” “Angus of Death,” “Mad Cow” and “Bull Balls.” It’s a seriously messed up record that I don’t think anyone else could have possibly made, which makes it all that much better. Even if you hate it with a passion, if you dig loud rock you should listen to it once, just for the experience. I know I’m better for it.
“Tim Dowler – Black Cow”
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My favorite of the group is the album he’s threatened to make for years, his doom metal record, Attention Deficit Domination. In typical Hank3 fashion, his vocals on the disc are his regular high register croons put through some kind of effect, or layered a million times to add a bit of distortion, which is kind of what he does on every rock disc he puts out. While Assjack was a hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll disc, A.D.D. is pure doom. Tons of low-end, slowed to a crawl at points and never really faster than a brisk stroll. It’s not a completely unique record as few doom metal records are. Songs like “Aman” and “Get Str8” could have been recorded by any Orange Goblin/Electric Wizard type band but it’s really his odd vocal stylings that make all the songs really stand out. Focus on the really grimey tracks like “Demons Mark” and “Make A Fall” and you’ve got something that’s as good as any full-time doom outfit out there.
“Living Beyond Doom”
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Also quite excellent in their own right are the two country records he’s releasing as a set, Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown. Ghost to a Ghost is a pretty straight shootin’ hellbilly record filled with acoustic guitars, banjos, fiddles and everything that would make a great hoedown. The song “Guttertown” (which is actually on Ghost) is a great example of the songwriting skills that he’s both learned from the family and honed on his own. It’s country enough for fans of the genre to enjoy and catchy enough that you can certainly dig it even if it isn’t your normal taste. “Guttertown” leads off the set but is followed by “Day By Day,” the best song of the set and one in which lyrically kind of sums up the whole concept of Hank3 just within the chorus: “Yeah, we’re livin’ day by day / gettin’ by the old outlaw way.”
Kickin’ up a shitstorm is really what Hank’s about, so it was only a matter of time before the lyrics got a little nasty too, like in “Don’t Ya Wanna”; “Lookin’ for a good time on Saturday night / ’cause I been cooped up feelin’ uptight / and I’m lookin’ all around tryin’ to find me a girl that / WANTS / TO / FUCK” or in the song about his lady taking his bag of cocaine and runnin’ off, interestingly titled “C*nt of a Bitch.” Do I need to elaborate any further on that one?
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Guttertown the album is also a country record but with more of a Cajun feel to it and filled with lots of atmosphere. As you listen, you kind of get the feeling that you’re walking around in that gutter, under the bridges where the homeless hang out, nothing but the night to carry your drunken ass home. Hank sings in a register that I thought only dogs could hear and throws on this super heavy accent to where it almost sounds like he’s not singing in English on most of the songs. It ends up being one of these records that you really have to fully concentrate on to understand the whole concept and get the lyrical content down. In the end, the record is quite cool but it’s got a bit of a funky feel to it. At 19 tracks long there’s upbeat zydeco-like tracks followed by dark and dingy atmospheric tunes used to set the scene. It makes for an oddly uneven record filled with lots of highs and lots of lows. As different as it is though, given a few listens, you might just find it the most rewarding of the four. And, “Fadin’ Moon” features Tom Waits. So you know, if you’re a Waits fanatic there’s another reason to listen.
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Overall, it’s an ambitious undertaking for Hank3 now that he’s able to release what he wants, when he wants to but one that he pulls off quite well. No matter what type of music you enjoy, I’d encourage you to listen to all four of these. It’s a shit ton of music but you feel both great and really dirty when you’re done.