March 9, 2005

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Hank Williams III, Straight to Hell
Bruc Records, 2006

Now 34, the Hank Dynasty’s third emperor finds that expressing the ultimate screw-you to his despised record label couldn’t be simpler than recording his new album on equipment only slightly more advanced than Radio Raheem’s boombox while continuing to deny his handlers anything that might constitute crossover material. Despite all the wishful “hellbilly” and “country punk” hyping from his beleaguered employers, the backup corps consists of all-pro tobaccy-chomping fiddlers and harp-blowers who can’t even spell angst — no Elvis Hitler slam-chords to be found, just Henry the third doing a moonshine-poisoned Merle-Haggard-as-Festus drawl that implicitly proclaims Johnny Paycheck is God. By taking out his inescapably punkist frustrations on his career rather than pulling a Shady on nemesis Kid Rock (let alone moistening a box of Kleenex over the absence of any relationship with Junior) he self-flagellates the way no attention-slurping alt scarecrow can, and one for the ages comes down again. A-

— Eric W. Saeger