Free of the constricting trappings of his former label Curb Records, Hank Williams III is wasting no time getting new product to his fans. "They didn't care for my thinking," says the artist, performing these days as Hank3.
This week he officially busted loose from the clutches of Curb, releasing not just one album but three: Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town, a rebellious, swampy double album featuring Tom Waits; the doom-metal disc Attention Deficit Domination, to sate his legion of black-clad followers; and a third album, Cattle Callin', with Williams laying down punishing grindcore on top of the voices of howling cattle auctioneers.
It's hard to pick our favorite, but Gutter Town is pretty solid, featuring zydeco and creepy bluegrass stomping, and what sounds like a pseudo-English patois.
Since hitting the music scene in his own right in the mid-'90s, the third Hank has been confounding and astounding an industry that fully expected him to be a carbon copy of his grandfather Hank Sr. and his father Hank Jr.
In theory, mainstream country would have been happy to have an artist like Hank3 to shill as a Branson tribute act, with his grandfather's iconic looks and his daddy's distaste for authority. Number 3 did do a stint onstage as his grandfather to help pay a few child support payments "for the judge" as he said, in the '90s, but he quickly ended the act once he gained his own footing.
The punk- and metal-influenced Williams has blazed his own rebel trail ever since. He can do country, hellbilly, punk, doom and hardcore within the same extended set without batting an eye.
Tonight Williams will be at Scout Bar in Clear Lake (no opener) unleashing his new music onto the masses, playing snatches of each new album -- although the Cattle Callin' material is aided by samples, since those God-fearing auctioneers probably wouldn't want to tour with a tattooed, long-haired hellion playing heavy jams in defiance of the country hierarchy.
With his dad being one of the biggest outlaw country names ever in country, and his granddad influencing everyone Bob Dylan to Beck, the third Hank is a part of a special group in country music who can count their fathers (and some mothers) as fellow pickers in the game.
We all know Waylon, but his son Shooter isn't too bad either, doing a rip-roaring Southern-rock thing with his dad's attitude and an AC/DC bent.
Jerry Jeff, writer of numerous Hill Country classics ("Pissin' In the Wind," "Sangria Wine") and the hit "Mr. Bojangles," spawned Django, who has made a name for himself on the Texas country circuit.
It's a family business now with the Nelsons. Lukas Nelson is 22 and has his own group, Promise Of The Real, while daughter Paula Nelson tours regularly herself.
Naomi and Wynonna Judd are wrapping up their latest reunion tour, which we covered a few weeks back, and are said to be done for good. Just like they said in 1991, when mother Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C.
The Carter family tree begins with their first debut in 1927 and continues to this day. A.P., Sara, Maybelle comprised the first family of country. The second wave of the Carters would include June, Anita, and Helen. June would go on to marry some guy named John who wore black, like, all the time. Rocks Off Sr. has had a serious crush on June's daughter with previous husband Carl Smith, Carlene, since the mid-'90s.
Johnny Cash had Rosanne, Kathleen, Cindy, and Tara with first wife Vivian Liberto, but only Roseanne seriously got into the music business. Cindy made a few appearances with her father as well. His son with June Carter, John Carter Cash, is a noted producer and songwriter, working with Billy Joe Shaver, Elvis Costello and Sheryl Crow.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Mel Tillis has been at the country game since leaving the Air Force in 1955, and had his biggest chart success in the '70s. Daughter Pam started singing in the early '80s and made a line of sturdy female country singles in the '90s. She tours regularly and comes by Dosey Doe in The Woodlands every few months.