Hank Williams, Jr.

Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound

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The Jimmy Bowen/Hank Williams, Jr. team kicked up the tension a couple of notches on 1979's Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound. Since Nash Vegas didn't seem to give a damn one way or the other, the pair leaned on the rockin' side of country even harder. Utilizing Waylon and cats like James Burton, David Briggs, Larrie Londin, Buddy Spicher, Kieran Kane, Reggie Young, and the Muscle Shoals Horns, they took the outlaw boogie into the stratosphere. From the first four tracks, Hank Jr. feels like he's auditioning to be a member of Black Oak Arkansas or Molly Hatchet on the outside and the Allmans, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Marshall Tucker on the inside. "The Pressure Is On" is one of those moody Southern rock ballads that feels like it may explode at any time. "Tired of Bein' Johnny B. Goode" is a redneck call to arms, "Outlaw Women" has been sung by every motorcycle club from coast to coast since 1979, and "I Don't Have Any More Love Songs" is one of the finer divorce songs written during that decade. But it's a divorce song of remorse and regret, not bitterness or clever one-upmanship. It's honest, true, and painful. Williams is not one to wallow and his disappointments come right back with a slash-and-burn cover of the nugget "White Lightnin'," most closely associated with George "Thumper" Jones. And before allowing all that good-time fun to go to waste, Williams and band weigh in with one of his most notorious macho outlaw tomes, "Women I've Never Had." It's sexist as hell, and Hank wanted it that way. It's an in-your-face to political correctness and feminism. The set cooks up to here and after, and the title track feels out of place on the album, though it is exceptionally well-crafted as a song. It's easy to see why he complained later that it wasn't a single, though he is out of his mind for doing so. "OD'd in Denver" is its own dark reward and the band digs into the groove deep and greasy. The album closes with three covers, the most notable and soulful of which is Gregg Allman's "Come and Go Blues," which is not played by the band so much as attacked, and Williams' vocal does Allman's example proud. Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound is the mother of Williams Jr.'s outlaw records and it rocks harder than anything in his catalog.

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