Written by Fantasma el Rey
Hank Williams III hits hard and delivers his sixth CD with force and a loud ‘n proud rebel yell. The thirteen tracks on Damn Right Rebel Proud explore a bit more of Hank III’s dark side in a mix of his brand of traditional outlaw country and his flair for metal and punk. At times he’s viciously proud and at others H III expresses remorse for the life he embraced and the torch he willingly bares. With his head held high H III kicks out his jams and looks to please his core audience, which is divided between country stompers, mosh-pit rompers, and us psychos that dig both and get what H III is putting down.
Like other modern outlaws, H III opens the disc with a back fist flung at Nashville and particularly the Grand Ole Opry. “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)” is a right cross of a song that deals with the fact that The Opry was not only hesitant to take in Waylon, Hank Jr., Johnny Cash, and Johnny Paycheck but that they still haven’t reinstated Hank Sr. after he was booted out back in the 1952. H III swings his country as he always has with a steady drum shuffle, solid stand-up bass, twangy guitars, weeping steel guitar, and racing fiddles with banjo and mandolin thrown in here and there for good measure.
Sticking to this formula are tunes with titles such as “Wild & Free,” “Me And My Friends,” and “Six Pack Of Beer.” Each paints a picture reflective of its title and “Six Pack” has the band setting the woods on fire as they burn through the song at such a speed you’d think they were being chased by the “revenooer man.” “Wild & Free” and “Me And My Friends” are anthems for being messed-up, good friends with bad company, and living “damn right and rebel proud” lifestyles, which they embrace to the fullest.
“I Wish I Knew,” “Candidate For Suicide,” and “Stoned & Alone” are fine examples of H III trying to work out his demons in song. It’s not that he doesn’t love his life; he’s just a man who knows he could do better but chooses not to. It’s a theme that many of us know well and can relate to, like it or not. “I Wish I Knew” is H III’s longing love song to a long-gone sweetheart he was wrongly mean to and has recently realized she was the best of him.
“Candidate” delves into the true inner demons of a family known for epic battles with such forces. Busted up, beaten down, anti social, and cursed, H III ponders the thought of having no more emotions and no longer hurting when he’s “riding in that hearse.” And an important note about “Candidate” is that not once does H III say that he “is” going to take his life or that the listener should; he’s simply asking himself the same questions that many of us have asked ourselves in quite, low moments. “Stoned & Alone” pretty much explains itself as H III tells of drinking alone and recalling his past of loss and misery as he drifts through the haze of being in the title’s stated condition.
“H8 Line,” “Long Hauls & Close Calls,” “3 Shades Of Black,” and “P.F.F.” are the hybrid songs that make “Damn Right Rebel Proud” stand apart from previous H III outings. The four tunes vary in theme and degree of hardcore metal/punk. He, more than anything, lets loose a darker atmosphere here than anyplace before on his straight country albums. “Long Hauls” is the jewel that showcases this blend best. H III’s vocals are sunken, distorted, and at times delivered with a shriek while the instrumentation picks up speed and cuts with a sharp metal edge. The bass slaps out of control and synchs with the drums in a train-from-hell beat and rhythm right out of the Johnny Cash songbook.
“P.F.F.” is a ten-minute romp through the hell that is H III’s daily life which apparently consist of fighting and f#*$ing. The song is dedicated to punk legend G.G. Allin who was actually in a band or two whose gothic psychobilly sound is the closest comparison to what H III has done with these four tunes. “P.F.F.” is played in three acts and switches gears to slow halfway into the fracas to give a different perspective on the familiar lyrics.
“3 Shades Of Black” finds H III alone on the instruments and vocals as he reworks “Ghost Riders In The Sky” to fit the darkness and shadows that surround and fill his music and life. A modern, dark masterpiece in the “things that go bump in the night” vein. A tune just in time for the Halloween holiday and us creepy sorts who dig this stuff the most.
Closing the CD and bringing Damn Right Rebel Proud full circle is “Working Man,” a duet with its writer Bob Wayne. It is a tough song about men working hard at rough jobs to support their families. Much like Merle Haggard’s tune of similar name, “Working Man” growls with the struggles of the working man to deal with taxes, bosses, inflation, a drink or two at day’s end as well as a child or two to support along with a wife. Those are truly the struggles and hard fight of the working man and a hell of a way for H III to close one hell of CD.
I’ve been a fan of Hank Williams III since his first recording hit the street and he never lets me down, always putting out music he knows his fans will like and now he’s gone a step beyond and combines the elements that make his live shows unique. He plays half straight country and half hard rocking, loud as thunder, fast as lightning punk. As always when you mix the two you get psychobilly, and on Damn Right Rebel Proud H III has turned out some good southern psycho. Well done, Hank!