Hanks, boy trouble and accidents

I am too tired today to go back through old posts and check what I’ve talked about before. Which is kind of ironic because usually when I’m this lazy I can’t manage to do much more than browse the internet. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I have dozens of minions to do my bidding while I sit back on the couch, drink coffee and play on the internet. Which is, uh, what I am doing right now, but I feel guilty for not being more productive. Presumably the minions would alleviate that guilt.

So I’m sitting here going through all the sites I’ve bookmarked recently, trying to catch up on the news. And by news I mean what is going on in twangalicious music this week, because watching the Democratic Convention is likely to make my head explode. Anyway, as I read it occurs to me that there’s all this stuff I should be telling y’all about.

Have we talked about Reinstate Hank? It’s a campaign to get Hank Sr. back into the Opry. They’ve got some awesome shirts, “Hank would agree, the Opry ain’t so grand anymore.” I think most of you can agree with that sentiment, since I assume if you are reading this, you are listening the kind of music we like over here which isn’t what the Opry is playing these days.

Speaking of Hanks, the video for the first single, “Long Hauls and Close calls,” from Hank III‘s forthcoming album, Damn Right, Rebel Proud is making it’s way around the internet. It is definitely the harder, angrier side of Hank III, so maybe don’t watch it with your morning coffee, but save it for when you’ve had 18 Miller High Life’s and are feeling like you want to take out the 4×4 and go muddin’. Check it out:

I stumbled on a new-to-me podcast, It Burns When I Pee, while reading through my usual line-up of music blogs. It plays like a morning radio show hosted by a combination of Wayne & Garth and Beavis & Butthead with good music. The music is pretty damn awesome, but the dirty, teenage boy humor of the hosts is either totally going to be your thing or it really, really isn’t (Mom, don’t bother listening). Just make sure you’ve had those 18 Miller High Life’s before you listen. It really is a boy’s club over there, despite having a female host. It’s not Howard Stern levels of offensive, but be prepared for a lot of dick jokes (the porn segment gets pretty effing gross). Interestingly enough what drew me to the podcast was the title of the most recent episode, “Twang Ain’t Just a Guy Thang,” and I thought hey! that’s what we do over here, right? But no, it isn’t a bunch of girls talking about twang, this is guys giving a few passing minutes to girl singers. Which is cool, I guess, any play girls get is awesome. Plus we don’t really need anyone stepping on our gig. You can get all the episodes at Podcast Alley. Check the William Elliott Whitmore one for sure and hey, the IBWIP boys hate on the mainstream Nashville music machine as much as we do, so they are, in essence, our brothers in arms (the enemy of my enemy).

Nashville musician Will Hoge was in a pretty nasty traffic accident here in Nashville about a week ago. It happened a couple blocks from HCT HQ so it feels like not just horror in the music community but in our ‘hood too. Will is currently in stable condition. I understand he will reschedule some tour dates, as he broke his collarbone and leg. Even if you aren’t already a fan of Will’s, send him well wishes and go check out his music:

Hmm, this post is kind of a downer. My fault for posting after half a cup of coffee instead of half a dozen whiskey drinks.

rumors, news, and tours

I am full of the news of big changes here at HCT. Coming soon. See this space. Hmm, it could be coming even sooner if I was working on it, instead of posting here. But I love you guys and I don’t want you to think we’ve just wandered off and stopped posting, as we so often do (none of that in the future though, I swear). And once again, if you are interested in writing for HCT, email me. This is an unpaid, though very prestigious, exotic and exciting job. What do you get out of it? Free music to review. What do we get out of it? Your awesome, smart writing. Call me, you know you want to hook up with us.

The 2nd annual Lucero Family Picnic was announced today. September 13 in, yep, you guessed it, Batesville, Arkansas. Will the HCT girls be there? Can they manage another day’s drive through Arkansas? That remains to be seen, my friend. Luckily for everyone not near Arkansas, the Lucero tour starts today. Dates are here, and while I’m super excited that I get to go right away, I’m a little jealous of y’all who get Justin Townes Earle on the bill. Seriously, Justin lives in Nashville and we don’t get him on the bill here? BOOO!! Anyway, no matter where you see them, there’s rumors of new songs to be heard, so get up, get out, and go to the show!

It is summer tour time, though I swear hardly anyone seems out this season. I’m not sure if it’s gas prices keeping our bands down or what, but don’t let it keep you down too. Get out and see some people. Even if you have to take the bus to get there. Don’t know who to go see? Might I suggest The Magpies, Hayes Carll, The Old 97s (!), Bruce Springsteen (if you are up for stadium show and you already have tickets), Steve Earle, Wayne Hancock, The Avett Brothers, Lyle Lovett and dozens of others that I am too woozy to think of right now.

The new Hank III album, Damn Right and Rebel Proud, is coming at you on October 21, 2008. That’s my mom’s birthday. I doubt she’s impressed with this coincidence. The first single will be “Long Hauls and Close Calls.” I can seriously barely contain myself. Now if only he’d play Nashville, my summer would be complete.

loose strings, new beginning

So we really have been falling down on the job over here at HCT HQ. Apparently Gibson.com has decided to pick up the slack for us by presenting the least inspired list of the top 5 alt-country albums of all time. I don’t disagree with the titles listed here, it just feels like the all titles on this list go without saying (though I would argue that the Wilco album on the list should be A.M.). There’s nothing surprising, or unknown. Anyone who began reading No Depression at the beginning has some variation of this list burned permanently into their consciousness. There’s a few other even less inspiring lists over at Gibson.com.

Honestly I am glad people are still talking about these albums. I hope it might even bring in new fans who will start searching out new music in my favorite genres. Which means that I should also be doing my job and talking about new music, old music and good music over here. So what’s my problem?

Big changes are afoot here at HCT. So even when I am not writing for your reading pleasure I am working! There’s going to be a new look, vastly expanded (and more regular) content, a second/sister site and plenty of room for audience participation.

Some things of interest, at least to me, maybe to you:

Lucero’s Ardent Studio Sessions at Nine Bullets. Also I’m not sure what is going in this photo but if you ever wondered how far Ben Nichol’s tattoos go up under his sleeves, now you know.

Bonnaroo is around the corner. I suspect if you’re going you are already ready already. If not, it’s probably too late to consider it, unless you live around the corner form me and have a friend who is going to get you a wrist band by some vaguely underhanded means. Us HCT girls are not attending. It’s too hot, we hate camping and traffic and while many bands we like will be there, the overall line up just isn’t that inspiring in our opinions. Although, if the site re-launch we are doing here soon goes as we hope, I expect next year there will be no avoiding any festivals for us. Or maybe we can recruit you all to go for us and write it up?

My beloved Hank III is campaigning to get his grandfather back into the Grand Old Opry. Seriously, though, is it even really that grand if it doesn’t contain Hank Sr.?

Todd Snider has covered a collection of Bob Dylan songs throughout his career. He’s got them all up for free at his archives. I love Bob Dylan, I love Todd Snider, could there be something much better than this?

So hey, if you are still here reading this far into this mostly useless post, then you must be a real HCT fan. Are you interested in writing for us? As part of our relaunch we are looking for people to write a short review every month, glamorously unpaid, but hey, your name in print. You get free music out of the deal. If you are interested email me and I will give you all the cool details.

Hank III 6/16/2006 in Spokane, WA

[This was written by our own esteemed Miss Daisy, herein lie her (mis)adventures in seeing Hank Williams III for the first time—Cricket]

On the way to the Hank III show, me and my roommate, Luke, had a conversation on the merits of assembling a team that included a pirate, a ninja, a cowboy, and an Amazon. (Originally, Luke tried to tell me that with the pirate and the ninja we didn’t need a cowboy, but whatever. That one is for me.) [That one is for all of us. Where would we be without cowboys?—Cricket] Luke said we need one more guy. A sort of leader/figurehead, if you will. Someone like Mr. T. I suggested MacGyver, what with him being, you know, MacGyver and all. [What is this team for? Mutual destruction?–Mimi]

Luke: No, we need Mr. T in case we need some arc welding done!
Me: What? Why in the world would we need arc welding done? Besides, you don’t think MacGyver could figure that shit out?

But I mean, c’mon, right? Arc welding? That’s just crazy and illogical.

Now, I did not check with Mimi and Cricket beforehand as to whether I needed to be drunk going into the show, or if it would be okay to get drunk during the course of the show, so to be on the safe side, we ducked into a nearby bar to have a drink before heading over to the venue. [There’s no rules, babygirl, but yeah, have a drink for us.—Cricket] [We have learned that drinking BEFORE shows is actually the path the disaster. PSA, children.–Mimi]

The concert was at The Big Easy (because even the Northwest wants to be Southern), which is a concert house/dance club. Kind of lamecakes, but it is Spokompton and not Nashvegas, so we do what we can.

Luke and I headed to the bar upstairs just as the opening band was coming onstage, and I would just like to point out that Luke is right to an obnoxious degree about all things concert-related. In this instance it was, “I told you there’d be an opening band.”

Me: Why is there a guy with no pants on the stage? (He was the drummer, as it turned out.)

The opening band was the Murder Junkies. So totally not my thing that in my notes I wrote, “Will have to rely on Luke to know if they are good.”

I did, however, write down some choice quotes from the singer, such as, “This goes out to all the loose women in the audience…” and “This goes out to all the girls who like their sex real rough,” and “This next song goes out to all the guys who still know how to eat–” You know what? I’m gonna end the quote there. You get the picture. The picture is skeezy. [This would be even funnier if y’all at home knew just how good and sweet and innocent Miss Daisy looks.—Cricket] [Skeezy? I thought it was funny. *ponders my level of sleaziness*–Mimi]

How I felt about the open act’s singer was kind of like when you go out to the bar and you’re sitting there by yourself while your friend gets the drinks and That Guy comes up to you. You know, that guy who, if he’s not actually old enough to be your dad, he looks it. He’s all tatted up in the not sexy way, and he smells like he’s been drinking bourbon non-stop for the past week, and he’s trying to hit on you, but he hasn’t quite mastered the art of the single entendre and you hope your drink gets here soon because you just threw up in your mouth a little. That’s how I felt about this band. (How do those guys always find me, anyway?) [It’s your charming innocence. Draws them like flies.—Cricket]

But for the sake of fairness, since it really isn’t my genre, I asked Luke if they were good.

Luke: This is the worst kind of music. Fusion that makes you dislike both original sources. Makes guys like me [who like the original sources] look like dipshits.
Me: See now, if you don’t want me to flip you shit all the time, quit leaving me openings like that.

Since the Murder Junkies were not to my liking, I spent that time getting drunk and observing the crowd, which was a bit of a mix of country and goth metal, but mostly fratboy chuckleheads. My notes say things like, “There is nobody on the dance floor!” and “There’s a guy here who looks kind of like Cory Branan, only not quite as cute.” [I really like how we manage to work Cory into almost every article. Good job, sweetcakes!–Mimi]

Hank III finally came on (right about the time that Luke said he would). [Shut up, Luke, damn!–Mimi]

Now, for the insane fangirls among you, I made sure to note his outfit. He was wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, a vest and a cowboy hat. And elf shoes. Now, I was a little drunk at this point, and kind of far away, but I swear he was wearing elf shoes. This is something I would really like to know about, though it will most likely remain a mystery. [I suspect they were really pointy cowboy boots worn down and beaten to shit until the toes curled up, but that’s just conjecture.—Cricket]

My notes here read, “Wow. Hank is kind of hot. I apologize for ever doubting you, Cricket.” [Thank you. I like to be right.—Cricket]

The Damn Band was tight. Really, is there anything better than going to a live show and having the act exceed your expectations? I don’t know what to say, other than Cricket is right: Hank gets it. Not only does he get it, he makes sure that you get it, too, and you’d better be having a damn good time in the process.

Or as good of a time as one can have listening to country in a venue where you can’t smoke. For all y’all who don’t know, Washington State recently passed a law that bans smoking from public buildings (including bars). You also have to be twenty-five feet from public doorways, and you can’t smoke at bus stops.

Hank III was not impressed by our laws, saying, “You can’t even go into a goddamn bar and have a fuckin’ cigarette and a goddamn beer” and winning over the hearts of smokers everywhere. [Hell, I had to move out of that state just so I could smoke.—Cricket]

The setlist from the country part of the show (to the best of my recollection and ability to read my drunken scrawling handwriting) is as follows:

Straight to Hell
Smoke and Wine
The Pills I Took
I Don’t Know
Dick in Dixie
Country Heroes
Mississippi Mud
Thrown Out of the Bar
The Devil is My Friend
The Legend of D. Ray White (Jesco the Dancing Outlaw!)
If You Don’t Like Hank Williams [I think this is a Hank Jr. song.—Cricket]
My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It [A Hank Sr. song popularized by Ricky Nelson.—Cricket]
Cocaine Blues
Crazed Country Rebel
One Horse Town
Drinkin’ Over Mama
Johnny Law (“For the kid who got kicked out for smokin'”)
Not Everybody Likes Us
Nighttime Ramblin’ Man

Thus the country set ended. Hank left the stage and I reviewed my notes. Or something. I don’t know, but I must have looked like I was doing something official, because this cute cowboy came up to me and asked, “Are you a reporter?”

Me: I’m writing a review for a website.
Him: Have you seen Hank live before?
Me: No.
Him: Now is when things start to rock. [I read this like him giving this line reading: Now’s when things START TO RAAAAAAAAWWWWWWK!–Mimi]

Or something totally cheeseball like that. I was drunk and he was cute, but then Luke returned to the table and cute cowboy walked off. Luke seems to have that effect. [I’m trying really hard to not mock Luke here. No one can clear a room like him. Hahahahahaha.—Cricket]

When Hank came back onstage, he had ditched the cowboy hat for a baseball cap to signify the shift in genre, I assume. As to what the genre was, I can only guess. Southern rock? Rockabilly? I seriously have no idea what to call it. He was still with The Damn Band at that point. He did a short set of whatever it was, about which I wrote, “I am not hating this!” which was very exciting for me.

Then he announced that he’d be back in five minutes with Assjack, and seriously? People cleared out. There were maybe twenty people on the dance floor. And, okay, normally I would feel bad for an act if their entire audience left before their encore (or second set, whatever). But before Hank III left the stage, he said something to the effect of knowing most people wouldn’t stick around, and “see y’all next time”. Which says to me that the metal thing is for him. If people enjoy it, that’s cool, but he’s doing it because he enjoys it. So I thought, “Awww, that’s so sweet! You know, maybe I’ll enjoy it, too.” [Hahaha, I love how hard you try, baby.—Cricket] [She tries harder than me, that’s for sure. Assjack sums up how I feel about this shit.–Mimi]

He came out with Assjack, vest and hat gone, hair down and there was full-on head bangin’ going on, folks. This is the point where I handed my notebook over to Luke and went to check out the merchandise booth. Not that I didn’t try! I stayed in there for, like, two full songs! It’s just totally not my scene.

Luke didn’t manage to stay in there for the full concert either, so we spent a few minutes hanging around talking to people, asking them if they enjoyed the concert. Luke had some exchange with a random girl, something about her doing something crazy, but she couldn’t because she was old now (she was maybe thirty, if that), but if she wasn’t old, she totally would. Whatever. I was looking for my damn Sharpie because I got a poster for Hank to sign.

Luke: But what do you think of Hank?
Random Girl: I would totally sit on his face.
Luke (to me): Write that down.
Me: Okay!

Then some baby-faced teenager tried to pick a fight with Luke, which was funny as all hell. Seriously, I have no idea what it is about the boy, but he does seem to provoke this reaction with some people.

We decided to go out back by the tour bus and see if we could get an autograph, because why the hell not, right? There were about half a dozen people out there (I would say six, but half a dozen sounds way more impressive) waiting as well, though maybe some of them were just smoking. Luke wandered off to buy cigarettes and I was left with my regrets on my choice to wear a skirt. Seriously, it’s the middle of June and like forty something degrees outside. Unacceptable!

Hank III came out, and I almost missed it because I was still trying to find my Sharpie. But I needn’t have worried, he was prepared with his own silver Sharpie. He didn’t appear to be in too big of a hurry, and took a moment to talk to everyone who was waiting and to make sure that they all got their stuff signed.

So as it turns out, he is not only incredibly talented, he’s also terribly sweet and charming as well. Damn Southern boys, ruining me for the boys who actually live close to me! I may have a little crush now, in that way that you sort of crush on your best friend’s boyfriend because he is totally cute and worthy of your friend.

Which means that, yes, Cricket, I totally approve of Hank III. [I knew you would. Thanks for going to the show when I couldn’t. You’re my best girl. Also I couldn’t love you more for not actually talking about the music at all and focusing on clothes and how he was were dressed. It’s just so you, sweet thing.—Cricket]

Review or mad obsession, you decide: Hank III's Straight to Hell

Hank III, Shelton Hank Williams, blah blah blah looks/sounds like his famous granddaddy blah blah battles with his record label. If you want to know that stuff a quick trip through Google search results will tell it to you over and over.

What’s really important about Hank III is that I think he’s hot. Like HOT. In that too-skinny, cracked-out, would probably be mean to you in front of his friends and nice when you were alone, and why am I so not over bad boys kind of way. For real, though I think he gets it. I’ve never met him, can’t do anything but infer from interviews and lyrics, but I think that he really does get it. What’s “it” you say? Why country music, of course. Isn’t that what it’s all about? [That noise in the background is Hank3 getting a restraining order. — Mimi]

The new Hank III album, Straight to Hell — it’s good. I probably wouldn’t bother talking about it if it wasn’t, but I’m sure you’re desperate for details as to why it’s good, so I’ll tell you. Pull up a chair — I tend toward wordy when I’m madly obsessing.

After the initial, nearly gospel-esque, intro (the Louvin Brothers’ “Satan is Real”), it opens with the title track and the lyric: Well my worn-out boots are taking me downtown / and I’m looking for trouble and I wanna get loud. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. See it’s like he’s singing about me, or perhaps to me, for the whole album (this reasoning might become a little disturbing as we make our merry way through all the songs.) [I’m already scared, to be honest. Also, audience, I, personally, only like Hank’s country music, the screaming shit hurts my soul. — Mimi]

The album overall isn’t so much about heartbreak or leavin’ your woman or that sad side of country music, and it sounds less like his grandfather than the previous country albums — though some of that could be because every song on this album is about getting drunk or high, or losing your girl because you were drunk or high, or finding a girl to get drunk and high with. Which certainly doesn’t make me love it any less. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, Shelton’s been waiting his whole life to buy me a drink in a dive bar and then get kicked out because I picked a fight with some chick in the bathroom. The songs he sings show me it’s true. [Wow. Stalkerific! Run, Shelton, RUN! — Mimi]

Most of the songs on this album hold to tried and true (and good) real country aesthetic. Hank III’s genre is Next Generation Outlaw Country. So far, he’s the only person in this genre, but let’s ignore that.

The tracks “Thrown Out of the Bar,” “Country Heroes,” “Pills I Took,” “Smoke & Wine,” and “Crazed Country Rebel” are surely the songs Hank III meant when he said the album had a lot songs about “drinkin’ and druggin’.” These are good old country songs, some with a whisper of high lonesomeness bringing to mind his granddaddy, and slower twang, slide guitar that’s nearly crying or toe-tappin’ fiddlin’ that might make me dance around the room a little, though I’d never admit it in public. [Are you nekkid or somethin’? I don’t see how this isn’t just your normal behavior. — Mimi]

The idea of outlaw country heroes plays through “Thrown Out of the Bar,” “Country Heroes,” and “Not Everybody Likes Us.” These songs put Hank III up with the greats — Johnny, David Allen Coe, Waylon, and Merle — and firmly cements him there with the same subject matter and the “certain kind of livin’.” And as he says Not everybody like us / but we drive some folks wild. [You must be on dope. You are comparing Hank 3 to Johnny and Waylon? Get thee behind me, Satan! — Mimi]

“Low Down,” “Things You Do To Me,” “My Drinkin Problem,” and “Angel of Sin,” scratch at the kind of heartbreak so detailed in Hank’s Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’ album with the same drug-induced twist the rest of this album has. Nearly every song listed above flutters with the feeling your girlfriend just left because of your drinking and you don’t even care ’cause you are that much of a broke down cowboy hard-ass.

Hank III has a serious hate on for the mainstream country music industry that veers toward religion (if country music is your religion like mine is), and that comes out in “”Not Everybody Likes Us” and “Dick in Dixie.” He staunchly honors the old country heroes and outlaw songs while avowing that pop country is destroying country music. He pleads that we should all be looking for country with real emotion, real meaning, or real balls. Sing it, Shelton, baby, I get it, I really do. The whole album could be my life, things I’ve done, things I will do, things I really understand (or perhaps it’s the imaginary life I live and Shelton’s just telling it all to me). Country music isn’t the music of youth, it’s the music of some life-lived. Shelton expresses that well with his whiskey-soaked and rage-fueled lyrics.

The one bump in this love fest is “D Ray White. It’s a great song to listen to, but I feel like I’m missing something with this — the song is nearly a story ballad, but not quite. I can’t find the story thread and the people mentioned aren’t familiar to me (is this gonna be something that totally outs me as a Yankee?).

The second disc on Straight to Hell flips the script 180°. It is in fact spectacular and maybe even innovative (at least for country music). It’s ambient noise of a sort: trains, thunderstorms, maybe stampeding horses and waterfalls (it’s hard to pin it all down) blended in with reverb effects echoing throughout neatly tied into a handful songs blending them into one long rollercoaster of a slow honky-took song. The individual songs are: a very slowed down version of “Smoke & Wine,” “Alone & Dying,” “Back By My Side,” “What’s His Name,” “Down In Houston,” “On My Own,” “I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You” (a Hank Williams Sr. cover), “Up In Smoke,” (yes it’s Cheech & Chong), and a cover of Wayne Hancock’s “Take My Pain.” All blended in a way that almost sounds like something crap-ass college kids would make when left stoned with recording equipment except this is good. Listenable, relaxing in a weird way. It’s sort of like lying in the tall grass of the high plains somewhere, at sunset, while God and Satan fight for your soul and you’re listening to everything around you, with music from the local honky-tonk blurring into all the ambient sounds.

(Also if the non-singing voiceover over the running water before the Jesus stuff starts is Shelton’s actual voice, oh fuck me I’m done, I might as well just start stalking him. And I swear, I don’t even ever date guys who smoke pot — uh, cause they are boring, not cause I give a fuck what they do).

The whole album is country to its core: dobro, fiddle, and just enough twang to make you want to beat time with it on the bar while you drink yourself to death. [Dobro RULES! — Mimi]

Can I turn this little Hank III love fest over to some hate mongering about his press? Yeah, you know you want it.

Most reviewers seem to be calling the second disc the most interesting part of the album, writing the rest off as either country versions of hip-hip songs (WTF? Because hip-hop is the only acceptable place to sing about drugs?) or deriding it as either too old-timey or not genuine enough in it’s country-ness (again WTF?). But then I’m never able to read reviews of stuff I really like. I end up incredibly pissed off, feeling like the reviewers totally didn’t get it.

You know what’s worse than bad reviews? Badly written reviews. [Leaving the barn door open there for me to diss the snot outta you. — Mimi] Even worse, humorless bad reviews indicating that the reviewer has no sense of humor, and in fact showing that reviewer barely listened to the album and then wrote a whole bunch of assumptions about it because s/he’s apparently afraid that hillbilly/white trash is a trend overtaking current media. Seriously, if this was happening, wouldn’t I have noticed? I live for shit like that. Yet go check out George Smith’s review of Straight to Hell. Like I told you: Hank III gets it, but George Smith apparently not only completely misses it, but has to be an asshat about it too.

So go listen to Straight to Hell and then tell old George how wrong he is, even if his hipster ass won’t listen to you.

In conclusion: reviewers, bite me. Readers, hook yourself up with this shit. Find Hank III’ s real country. Shelton? Call me, I get it, baby, let’s get married in Vegas. I promise when I leave your fucked-up ass I won’t ask for more than a few songs about me.

(mp3.com has the entirety of Straight to Hell available streaming, for free, if you want to give it a listen, but you should just go buy it.)

[I guess I really have no room here, considering my feelings on Cory Branan, but dear lord. Feel bad for me, folks! — Mimi]

[Also, you didn’t mention the making the first record to pay his child support thing, either. What’s up with that? — Mimi] [How could I forget! That’s redneck cred right there. Judge tells him playing music isn’t a job and he has to pay his damn child support, so he gets a record deal just to be contrary. LOVE. — Cricket]