Label Dispute Results in Uneven Hank Williams III (Album Review)

hank-williams-iii-ramblin-man-album Self-proclaimed leader of the “hellbilly” rock genre, Hank Williams III latest release from Curb records, “Ramblin’ Man” is steeped in music industry drama. Unfortunately, the bizarre circumstances surrounding the production of this record do not correlate into a cohesive or very listener friendly album. As the third generation Hank Williams tries to make a name for himself outside of his family legacy this album is a reminder that sometimes an artist is limited by a record label, sometimes even long after the contract has run out. Curb seems determined to remind listeners that this is the spawn of Hank Williams and Ol’ Bocephus with the inclusion of covers of classic country songs, including the title track, “Ramblin’ Man” a song done by Hank Williams, Sr.

Ending his formal relationship with Curb in 2010, this is the NINTH studio release on a contract that was supposed to be six albums. While this is not an uncommon practice in the music industry, the patchwork nature of the album is truly unfortunate. William may have the gritty charm of his predecessors but this album is kind of a melodic wreck. Made up of previously recorded songs, covers, and even outtakes seen unfit to include on prior records, “Ramblin’ Man” might be a treat for true followers of Hank III. For the average listener, however, it is a jarring, overly aggressive mix of some talented work and some fairly unlistenable tracks.

“I’m the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised),” originally by Johnny Paycheck is a decent, if routine, hard rocking country tune. It showcases some fine guitar work and Williams’ vocals are a good accompaniment. By comparison, “Hang On” just feels like an audio assault on the ears and is unfortunately closer to what Williams’ feels is his truer sound- a “hellbilly”/rock/punk mix. This does not inspire one to go out and buy any of Williams’ non-Curb recordings. Merle Haggard’s standard “Okie from Muskogee” is included on the album, again to a disquieting effect. It’s a great song and musically not difficult to play. Part of its charm is the simple lyrics and steel guitar but somehow Williams does not rise to his country bloodline and the song falls flat.

Mercifully, there are only eight tracks on the album and about three are worth listening: “Fearless Boogie” (a cover of the ZZ Top song and previously included on a ZZ Top tribute record), the aforementioned “Im the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised),” and “Ramblin’ Man.” Are three tracks worth buying a record? No. Download favorites and skip the rest. Williams himself has been known to say “F*** Curb” and many, many people agree with him. The relationship was only forged in the late 90s when a judge ordered Williams to get a “real job” during a child custody dispute. Over time Williams became displeased with the record label’s involvement and if this is the kind of material they were producing with him, one has to agree.

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