Long Gone Daddy
It would be hard to find a more unlikely voice to sing pop tunes than Shelton Hank Williams (Hank 3 to his friends). It’s high and nasal and sounds like he has asthma and needs a decongestant, but it’s distinctive to the point of singularity and the only other voice that comes close is that of his late grandfather Hank Williams Sr. Hank 3 has a rather dualistic approach to rock and roll — he can sound like a good-timing hard-drinking hillbilly hell-raiser and he can go off into drone metal and thrash with the best of them. Last year he released four albums on one day and this is his next project: it adds punk elements to classic country styling and it’s full of classic covers jazzed up with twenty-first century arrangements.
Even though you’re getting a platter full of covers you’ll have to pay attention the first time through to pick them out. “A Good Hearted Woman” (Waylon Jennings / Willie Nelson) and Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” are the coziest but you get about a whole verse into each before you go “wait… a… minute…” The immediately recognizable “Wreck of Old ’97” is one of those classic railroading songs from the pre-jetset days, a mostly true story of an engineer who was trying to make up time for the company. His work ethic got him scalded to death by steam and there wasn’t much left of him but this fiddle tune. A pair of Hank Williams Sr. numbers appear, including the title “Long Gone Daddy” and the depressing “‘Neath A Cold Gray Tomb of Stone.” Hank 3 replacea the original spare backing with more instruments, more arrangement, and just as much heart as his daddy ever had. Hank 3 puts two of his own numbers in here: “Sun Comes Up” and “What They Want Me To Be” blend right into the mix.
If you think about it, Hank 3, Hank Sr. and the more Nashville Sound Hank Williams Jr. are almost like Luke and Obi Wan and Vader — different aspects of an essentially united spirit. If this is where country music is heading, buy me a ticket. The country and western genre has been slapped around over the years and forced into everything from Vegas jazz to stadium rock to slick show tunes, but with Hank 3 at the helm, it looks like there’s gonna be one more attempt to drag it back into what it always was — good people having a great time singing about bad things.
Hank 3: www.hank3.com