MICHELE NORRIS, host: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
Hank Williams III is keeping up family tradition, but he's also breaking new ground. Hank III is the grandson of the country music legend, and he's the son of Southern rocker and country boy Hank Jr. Hank III got his musical start playing punk and metal. But he also plays country, and he's just released four CDs that bend and blend those musical genres.
Meredith Ochs has this review.
MEREDITH OCHS: If your name is Hank Williams and you could have pretty much anyone you want play on your records, who would you hire? Why, your best friend: your own dog.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROOPER'S HOLLER")
HANK WILLIAMS III: (Singing) I'm running my dog in a Tennessee holler, listening to what he's saying. I'm running my dog in a Tennessee holler, listening to what he's saying.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)
OCHS: Yes, that's Trooper, the dog of Hank III. But what else would you expect from Williams? Born of country music's most iconic bloodline, he has always cast off expectations, challenging the music industry, the press and even his fans. In concert, Williams would often go from a set of straight-up country to punk rock and metal, with only the most broadminded audience members sticking it out for the whole show. And those are the ones who will truly appreciate this four-disc opus. "Ghost to a Ghost" is, for the most part, unambiguously country. But its companion piece, "Gutter Town," plays like the soundtrack to a horror film, a demented Cajun campfire on the outskirts of a creepy, deserted village.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUTTER TOWN")
OCHS: Hank Williams III has used ambient sounds, and blips and bleeps, on recordings in the past. But it's the third CD, "Cattle Callin'," on which he - well, innovates. In his never-ending, genre-bending quest, Williams creates what he calls cattlecore, setting the rapid-fire calls of cattle auctioneers to superspeed metal.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CATTLE CALLIN' ")
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The correct title of the fourth disc is "Hank 3's Attention Deficit Domination."] OCHS: As if all that isn't enough, there's a fourth disc, called "Hank 3's Attention Deficit Disorder" - Williams' foray into doom rock.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HANK 3'S ATTENTION DEFICIT DOMINATION")
OCHS: With his instrumental skill, his vocal ability and his pedigree, Hank Williams III could have easily coasted into a mainstream country music career. Legend has it that Minnie Pearl, who was very close to the Williams family, told Hank 3: Lord, honey, you're a ghost - because he so closely resembles his grandfather. You can hear the possibilities on songs like this one.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAY BY DAY")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) I've been running all around, just burning up the land, knowing I'd have a damn good time. Leaving like the wind, always ready to begin, burning out to get you overdrive. Tearing up the mountains, burning up some fields, riding rivers on a good day. Running full throttle and racing like hell, we're going to make it through one more day. Yeah, we're living day by day...
OCHS: But as much as country music runs through Hank III's veins, so does rebellion. After all, his grandpa was thrown out of the Grand Ole Opry. Most of the music on Williams' four CDs bears little resemblance to Hank Sr., but his reckless spirit is in there.
NORRIS: ALL THINGS CONSIDERED will continue in a moment.