Smile Politely

Come see Hank III, or don’t, he doesn’t care

“If you can’t cut the mustard, lick the jar.”

Above is a quote from the documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (if you haven’t seen it, you need to — it is great and on Netflix), a movie that features Hank Williams III. The quote isn’t about him — actually, I’ll be damned if I could tell you what the quote even means — but if the jar in question holds moonshine it might be pretty apt.

Hank III is a ghost.

Born with a name, a body, and a reputation he could never escape from, it’s really a wonder he’s made it this long. A stick-thin character with a face unbelievably similar to his grandfather’s, he has born to play country music and abuse drugs and alcohol like both the Hank Williams that came before him.

Though he has fallen into the same habits that took his grandfather, and taken the same profession as his father and grandfather, Hank III has always done things his own way. Even his covers of Hank Sr., like “I’m a Long Gone Daddy” from his latest full-length, Long Gone Daddy, have their own twist to them.

Perhaps this is why Hank III and the Whites of West Virginia get along so well: they do things their own way and fuck everyone who doesn’t care for it.

Hank III’s country is steeped in the traditional country, but tinged with the flavor of his hardcore punk and metal past. Being guitarist in Assjack, drummer in Arson Anthem, and bassist in the side project of Pantera’s guitarist Phil Anselmo, Superjoint Ritual, has given his albums a much more aggressive edge than anything any other Hank Williams ever released or would ever release.

The fact that Hank III puts out music country-pop fans would recoil at is a point of pride for the musician. On his 2006 album Straight to Hell he makes a chorus out of lambasting the music coming out of Nashville these days; he ends the chorus to the song “Dick in Dixie” with the sing-a-long line “Pop country really sucks.”

That track is a great example of what makes Hank III seem so awesome to people like me, who appreciate country music without tight jeans and chest hair (I’m looking at you, Jason Aldean). But, at the same time, it’s also a perfect example of a song that might turn off casual listeners: Hank III throws a hard ‘F’ in the middle of the song (not fuck), in a turn of phrase that probably made his ignorant father proud.

As I mentioned earlier, however, if you don’t like Hank III’s music or his choice of verbs, he doesn’t give a damn.

For that, Hank III is an interesting character worth further study. His show Wednesday at the Canopy Club seems like a good place to start. The concert begins at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

For even more Hank III, dive into this beautiful profile from GQ, then watch The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. You won’t be disappointed.

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