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Hank Williams III enters country music with a bang.

By Tim Prizer - Staff Writer

With the tattoos painted into his skin, he's as punk as the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. With his snow white cloth cowboy hat, he's as country as his father and grandfather. With his threadbare cowboy boots held together with a slab of duct tape, he proves that the combination of cowboy and punk can be done. And, in this case, done well.

Genetics sure have been good to this Williams family. First it was the legend, Hank Williams Sr. Then came his son, Hank Williams Jr. Now, there's a new outlaw on the rise. Shelton Hank Williams III has released his first solo album on Curb Records, perfectly entitled "Risin' Outlaw".

"I just like real hard country music that sort of punches you in the face," Hank states. "I don't like pretty boy stuff." Hank's music sounds straight country, but his lyrics on the other hand show that he's a rebel, a bad ass. Never in today's country music would you hear an artist sing about trying to "get in Ms. Shania's [Twain] pants." But Hank III bravely states in the opening song, "I Don't Know," that he may try before he dies. Before the first sound of a musical instrument comes through on "Risin' Outlaw", Hank claims "I might get drunk and rob a bank/Shoot my car if it don't crank." This country boy goes as far as to say that one day he may try to "give up drinking cold ice tea." Now, that's a rebel.

In the third track, "If the Shoe Fits," Hank further elaborates on his rebellious habits.

"I've been roughed up, beat up, I've been cut/I got a tattoo at a tender age/Never could respect a sheriff tryin' to break my neck with a few friends and a can of mace," he sings. "I was born on the south side with a lot of rebel pride/I raised a lot of hell in my younger days."

Risin' Outlaw shows Hank Williams III taking over where his grandpa left off many years before. He looks a bit like the first Hank, and his squeaky, nasal singing voice presents visions of trailer parks and dirt roads winding their way through the Deep South. This is true country music. The kind of music that causes the listener to insert sounds of drunken yells, empty beer bottles clanking in the trash barrel, and cowboy boots tapping on the hardwood floors of a barroom.

For a 26-year-old man who began playing shows with his father at the age of 10, Hank Williams III has put out an album with quality far ahead of his time. He did have some help though. Hank borrowed Buddy and Julie Miller's "Lonesome For You" and used it as the fifth track on "Risin' Outlaw". He also does a brilliant rendition of the famous "Cocaine Blues."

Some of the best songs on the album were penned by the great Texas singer/songwriter Wayne Hancock. "87 Southbound," "Why Don't You Leave Me Alone," and "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs" are all Hancock's originals. "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs" sounds like it was written personally for Hank III. Hank sings, "I grew up on the road from town to town/My daddy's line of work kept us movin' around/I've got fond memories of the way things were back then/The warmth of neon when a cold storm's movin' in." The young singer is also a respected musician and songwriter. Hank plays acoustic guitar throughout his album, and all on his own, wrote the songs "On My Own" and "Blue Devil," which was recorded on a 4-track by Hank III at his home. Williams shares song writing credit on the splendid rockers "Devil's Daughter" and "If the Shoe Fits."

The lonesome whine of pedal steel guitars, rapid fiddle playing, and quick two-step drum beats characterize Hank Williams' tunes, and make them superb for dancing. More importantly, it's flat out good music. You don't have to be a country music fan to dig it. The deep twang of the bass under Hank's rowdy vocals has attracted artists in all genres of music. In fact, Hank Williams III began opening for Beck on January 25 and will continue to share the stage with him until February 5. After that, Reverend Horten Heat has invited Hank to open for their shows for the next 20 days in February. Hank Williams III will headline a tour shortly following these dates.

To miss Hank Williams III would be like turning your back on history, on a legacy. So pick up Hank's hot new album "Risin'Outlaw" and be sure to catch him on the road. He'll make a lasting impression on any fan of music.

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