released May 25th, 2010

from the album - Rebel Within

from all music

Shelton Hank Williams III was born December 12, 1972, in Nashville, TN. As the grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr., he was country music royalty before he ever sang a note. But he didn't immediately follow his forebears musically, choosing instead to bang around the Southeast, playing drums in punk and hardcore combos and smoking prodigious amounts of weed. It was the outlaw spirit of his lineage, alive and unwell and floating in the bong water. By 1996, steep child support payments and his thirst for Mother Nature had forced Hank III onto to the straight and narrow, and he signed a contract with Music City giant Curb. The label issued Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts, which brought the voices of all three generations of Williams men together via the ghastly miracles of modern technology. It was about as far from what Hank III wanted as he could get and signaled the beginning of his stormy relationship with Curb.

Williams was in a tight spot. While his name, face, and uncanny vocal resemblance to his grandfather almost guaranteed him a thriving country audience, he had no patience for Nashville's squareness and rigid control. He and his Damn Band could wow a crowd with a spot-on set of gorgeous country balladry and spirited honky tonk. But III could just as easily shift gears into screeching, Black Flag-style punk rock with his hard-rocking combo Assjack. He was the kind of anomaly enormous record companies couldn't stand eminently marketable, yet defiantly unpredictable.

Curb issued Hank III's proper debut in September 1999. Entitled Risin' Outlaw, it presented 13 rough-hewn country numbers colored by Hank's honky tonking vocals. And while he played his share of "country" gigs to support it, Williams also appeared at the 2001 Vans Warped Tour alongside punks like Rancid. The irascible III also dismissed Outlaw as a label-controlled fiasco almost immediately after its release. After a few years of touring and trying like mad to be released from his Curb contract, III returned to wax in early 2002 with Lovesick, Broke & Driftin'. While Outlaw had featured material from outside writers, the new LP was all Hank III but for a previously released cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City." He also produced, recorded, and mixed it by his lonesome in just two weeks.

At this point Hank's relationship with Curb became even more strained. The label refused to release his appropriately named This Ain't Country LP, which featured songs like "Life of Sin" and "Hellbilly." At the same time, it refused to grant Hank III the rights to issue it on his own. He and the record company reached an impasse, which III only exacerbated with the "F*** Curb" T-shirts he sold through his thriving website. Thrown Out of the Bar, his third honky tonk album, was scheduled for release in 2003, as was the long-awaited This Ain't Country. Additionally, III issued extremely limited-edition releases through his website (often in quantities of 100 or less) and continued to play bass in Superjoint Ritual, the brutal side project of Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. The double-disc Straight to Hell was released March 2006 on Bruc Records (the fledgling rock division of Curb). The first CD contained songs with elements of traditional country warped to fit Hank III's rebel attitude, while the second disc boasted only one song that featured just Williams, his guitar, ambient noises, and a slight story that those coming down from drugs might enjoy. Ever in the outlaw mode, Williams released Damn Right, Rebel Proud in 2008. His fourth and final album for Curb, The Rebel Within, followed in the spring of 2010.

album review

Unlike most post-millennium country "outlaws," Hank Williams III has actually been fighting against something concrete instead of just nursing a bad attitude. Hank III likes his music as strong as his drink, and he's been battling Curb Records (who first signed him in 1996) for the right to do his music his own way for years, which includes both his hard-edged trad-styled country and his "hellbilly" thrash metal project Assjack, and on Straight to Hell and Damn Right, Rebel Proud, he seemed determined to get some of Assjack's attitude into his country albums since Curb refused to release his hardcore rock music. 2010's Rebel Within finds Hank III in a more comfortable place than he's been for a while; Curb belatedly issued Assjack's album in 2009, and with Rebel Within, he's finally fulfilled his deal with the label (which he celebrates in an enthusiastic and foul-mouthed coda to "Tore Up and Loud"). There's an undercurrent of metal/punk noise creeping through a few tracks on Rebel Within (the bursts of Cookie Monster vocals on the title cut and the breakneck finale of "Drinkin' Over Momma"), but for the most part, this is the most straightforward country music Hank III has released since 2002's Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'; Billy Contreras' fiddle, Andy Gibson's steel guitar, and Johnny Hiland's guitar give these songs a classic acoustic honky tonk feel while adding just enough electric elements to keep this from sounding like an exercise in retro-nostalgia. More than one writer has noted that Hank III sounds a lot more like his grandfather Hank Williams than his dad Hank Williams, Jr. ever did, and he writes the kind of melodies that suit his weathered, soulful twang just right; Rebel Within captures a tone of bad luck and trouble with a grace and gravity that's manna from heaven for fans of 100-proof roadhouse music. However, while Hank III knows booze and heartbreak are country's two greatest themes, he seems to have leaned a bit too far into the "gettin' loaded" part of the equation; there's more booze, pot, heroin, cocaine, and other consciousness-altering substances on Rebel Within than you'll see in an entire season of Intervention, and by the end of the album, you'll probably wish someone would send Hank III and his cast of characters into court-ordered rehab. Rebel Within needs a few more thematic change-ups, but past that, this is strong, heartfelt work that proves Hank III hasn't turned his back on pure country music; no one could ever accuse Williams of not understanding his roots, and anyone who feared he sold his soul to rock & roll with Assjack gets sent to school with this record.

Track Listing

1 Getting' Drunk and Fallin' Down Williams 2:35
2 Rebel Within Williams 4:47
3 Lookin' for a Mountain Williams 4:54
4 Gone But Not Forgotten Williams 4:59
5 Drinkin' Ain't Hard to Do Williams 3:35
6 Moonshiner's Life Williams 3:29
7 #5 Williams 6:36
8 Karmageddon Denney, Lunsford 4:29
9 Lost in Oklahoma Williams 4:03
10 Tore Up and Loud Williams 3:51
11 Drinkin' Over Mama Williams 3:13