Hank III has a lot of songs that name-check his musical influences. In “Country Heroes,” one of his best songs, he sings about getting drunk to the music of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and David Allan Coe — all guys from the Outlaw side of country music.
The legendary Hank Williams, Sr., one of the original country rebels, gets a lot of play in Hank III’s lyrics as well. Hank III got his grandfather’s genes, that’s for sure. The physical and vocal resemblance is oft-noted and downright eerie.
The number of Hank III songs that reference country singers, however, is vastly exceeded by the number of Hank III songs about partying and hell-raising. Well, if his recent 25-song country set at Northern Lights is a guide, you could say nearly all of Hank III’s songs are about that.
Hank III tackles “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” at Northern Lights:
He started his Clifton Park show with “Straight to Hell,” a song that had the enthusiastic crowd – who knew the words to all the songs, it seemed – chanting along to the chorus of “One more round!”
“And to the rowdy rebels getting kicked out of the bars – it happens to the best of us,” Hank III said before playing three country-punk rabble-rousers in a row: “Thrown Out of the Bar,” “Gettin’ Drunk and Fallin’ Down” and “Smoke & Wine.”
Hank III and his stellar band (on fiddle, stand-up bass, drums, banjo, pedal steel) all were sporting cowboy hats. Hank III had a braid hanging down his back, a jean vest covered in punk patches, and tattoos running up his arms. Like the song “Straight to Hell” says, the guy’s got hillbilly ways and an outlaw style.
“We are a certain breed, and we don’t like you,” he sang on “3 Shades of Black,” his Hank Williams-high voice sounding great on some low notes. “Rebel Within,” another sing-along about draining bottles, was followed by “P.F.F.,” a mosh-pit-stirring tune inspired by G.G. Allin.
“If you don’t want to get pushed around, don’t stand in the middle,” Hank III said afterwards, offering fans an astute bit of advice from the stage. “Crowd surfing and moshing are part of the show.”
Although it could verge on parody, the rebellion never seems like an act with Hank III. He reportedly didn’t grow up around his famous father, pop-country star Hank Williams, Jr., and Hank III’s distaste for the uniformity and squeaky-clean nature of commercial country is palpable.
On “The Grand Ole Opry / Ain’t So Grand,” he called out the country music institution for failing to reinstate Hank Williams, Sr., to their ranks after his dismissal for alcoholism. (You can sign a petition to aid in the cause.)
He reprised Kris Kristofferson’s confrontational tune, “If You Don’t Like Hank Williams (You Can Kiss My Ass),” and his closer “Dick in Dixie” was a kiss-off to his critics.
Following his two-hour country set, Hank III flipped off the cowboy hat, pulled out the braid, donned a baseball cap and raged for another hour or so, playing a hardcore-punk-and-country hybrid he calls “hellbilly,” which morphed into a set by Assjack, Hank III’s metal-punk band that typically drives out everyone but the die-hards.
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
HANK WILLIAMS III SET LIST
Straight to Hell
Thrown out of the Bar
Gettin’ Drunk and Fallin’ Down
Smoke & Wine
Lookin’ for a Mountain
Pills I Took (Those Poor Bastards)
Long Hauls and Close Calls
3 Shades of Black
Crazed Country Rebel
Six Pack of Beer
The Grand Ole Opry / Ain’t So Grand
If You Don’t Like Hank Williams (Kris Kristofferson)
I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive (Hank Williams, Sr.)
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Down in Houston
Tore Up and Loud
Double A Daddy / Juke Joint Jumping (Wayne Hancock)
Not Everybody Likes Us
Dick in Dixie