Hank III / Hank Williams III

Brothers of the 4X4

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Hank Williams III, or Hank3, as he seems to prefer it lately, may be the grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Williams, Jr., and therefore part of the royal family of country music, but he's taken to the mantle with a good deal of acrimony. His first taste of being a musician saw him playing drums in punk bands, and when Curb Records signed him to a recording contract in 1996, well, they thought they were getting a country star and Hank3 had other ideas, although he's every bit as country at heart as he wants to be. What followed was a sad soap opera of duels and threats between Williams and Curb for over a dozen years before he was finally free of his contract. Williams then promptly started his own label, and out from under the Curb contract, he set out to establish his creative identity, or identities, plural probably being more accurate. Williams is country, all right, when he wants to be, as this double-disc release shows, although he's not Nashville country, at least not the way Nashville wants its country these days. The ragged, loose energy of this record sounds a bit like Grandpa Jones on meth, and if that sounds like it might be awful, it really isn't, and there's a fun, what-the-hell attitude on this record, stoked by songs like the loose banjo ramble that opens things up, "Nearly Gone"; the blistering hillbilly romp of the title tune, "Brothers of the 4X4"; the woozy "Ain't Broken Down" (which gets a reprise on the second disc as "Broken Boogie"); and the skewed Western swing of "Possum in a Tree." These songs are fun, energetic, and full of backcountry outlaw attitude that makes them poison to the Nashville establishment. That's the way Hank3 wants it, and guess what? Brothers of the 4X4 isn't even Hank3's biggest nose thumb to Nashville, since he released another album the same day as this one, the punk crazy thrash country set A Fiendish Threat, which makes this album sound like Charley Pride. The term maverick was invented for Hank3, and his certainty and attitude make you want to root for him.

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