Album Review

Hank III - Straight To Hell

Hank III - Straight To Hell

He's blessed and damned with more than just his grandaddy's voice. A hundred-something taut-sprung pounds of lean, mean, muscle and steel, Hank III is a hurtling train, a outlaw rebel, a glorious mess of wired and wiry assjack punk. Two previous albums of plain-spun, heart-wrung honky-tonk really only skimmed the surface. This two-disc set cuts closer to the real Hank III: riven, driven and demon'd with sin. The first disc (the album proper) is an impressive collection of gaunt and haunted, fierce and plaintive craft -- songs of wit, pith and bile, drinkin' and druggin', old-timey furies and weeping country laments, all yelped or sundered in his savage switchblade croon. Disc two is more throwaway, and yet somehow the clincher. A sort of dirty, rough-cut collage, it sets nine raw acoustic songs within a 42-minute melange of stoner hillbilly chill-out. Maybe there is a way forward for him after all, in combining -- head-on -- his seemingly diametrically opposed traditionalist country and thrash-metal extremes. Burned by the road and fueled by whiskey and weed, Hank III lives a scorched-earth life in the shadow of genius. That's his burden. Behind the tattooed blur of trash and bluster, meantime, he's deeper and darker and bigger and better than he's ever likely to be allowed. That's his curse.