Family Tradition

Hank is a name that stands alone in country music. Same goes for Hank Junior. And now there's a third: Hank Williams III, otherwise known as Hank III. Unlike his pappy, Bocephus (a.k.a. Junior), Hank III looks like grandpaw, sounds like grandpaw, and damn if the kid doesn't embody the same outlaw spirit of grandpaw. And thank God he doesn't have his dad's cornball goofiness. Still in his tender twenties, H3 might yet sidestep the self-destructive streak that apparently ran rampant through gramps and pa alike. Little Junior's music is not groundbreaking, but it's definitely raw and rockin'. After all, this cat is a former punk rocker with a tattooed and junkie-thin image to uphold.

Hank III is certainly a top cadet from the new wave of "insurgent country" (i.e., country music out of Nashville that is not overproduced or big-haired). Wisely, the kid is taking his updated, old-timey country sound to smaller venues all over the South, going the hayseed route rather than the glamour-puss path of fancy four-dollar-drink joints. While Risin' Outlaw (Curb Records) is not the album of the year, it does show great potential. When No. 3's trying to sound like grandpaw, it wears a little thin, but when he experiments with production techniques, the old-school country effect is real nice. In all, the kid's liable to tear the roof off with some rockabilly swing tune one minute then tear some hearts out with a bluesy, soul-stirring ballad the next. And oh, that familiar nasally yodel...( Liz Belile)

Hank III performs Saturday, November 20, at the Firehouse Saloon, 5930 Southwest Freeway, at around 9 p.m. Tickets are $15, available in advance at the Firehouse. For more information, call (713)977-1962.

Joe Sample -- Just in case you missed it, November 16 has been proclaimed "Joe Sample Day" by the City of Houston. Why does Joe Sample get his own day? Well, for one, the keyboardist and native Houstonian has been making solid, barrier-breaking jazz for decades. Two, he happens to be in town for his first announced performance in a long time, promoting his latest album, The Song Lives On. Three, he has earned it.

In the late 1950s Sample founded the hard-bop group the Jazz Crusaders with fellow Houstonians Wayne Henderson, Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper. (The group also included, for a brief time, Houston flute sensation Hubert Laws). The Jazz Crusaders packed a soulful punch, and Sample's gospel/blues-based piano work was always a strong point. As the 1970s approached, the group started incorporating rock and R&B influences into its sound, and Sample eventually began using electric piano. By 1971 the Crusaders had dropped the "Jazz" part of its moniker, and four years later, it nearly lost the jazzy leanings altogether when Henderson left the band. No matter, albums were still selling.

In the late 1970s Sample, in addition to working with the Crusaders, began pursuing a solo career. Unlike the Crusaders' work, Sample's solo work showed lots of creativity, compositional strength and sophisticated lyrical playing, stuff that was so desperately lacking in most of the Crusaders' later-day recordings. Sample even visited traditional jazz, something the Crusaders seemed intent on avoiding. The Crusaders eventually disbanded, though Felder and Henderson would reform the group sans Sample in 1993.

Sample's Houston performance will feature vocalist Lalah Hathaway (Donny's daughter), who sings on most of The Song Lives On. The album leans more toward R&B than jazz. While Sample can accentuate Hathaway's voice like only the most gifted accompanists can, he can also take off on his own. On the instrumental numbers, Sample shows why he is still an original and respected player. (Paul J. MacArthur)

Joe Sample performs with vocalist Lalah Hathaway at the Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Freeway, on Friday, November 19, at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call (713)988-1020.

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Liz Belile
Paul J. MacArthur