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Pop Music Review

Hank III Moves Between Punk and Family Tradition

September 25, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS

With his eerily familiar high-lonesome tenor twang and spittin'-image appearance, Hank Williams III naturally evoked his legendary grandfather at the Roxy on Saturday. The singer-guitarist's two-hour set touched on the original Hank's legacy but emphasized his own musical identity, a blend of country and punk that Nashville's Music Row would never embrace.

Not that Hank III (known to friends by his first name, Shelton) cares. Sure, the 27-year-old paid affectionate homage to both Hanks who came before him, in a rousing take on his father Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition," along with such Hank Williams classics as "Move It on Over." But he also raised a lyrical middle finger to the country-pop establishment that rules his Nashville hometown.

Williams' garb--western shirt, cowboy hat, and ripped T-shirt touting goth-punk band Samhain--reflected the sold-out show's musical split personality. Linked by rebellious themes, the first half offered neoclassic country songs from his debut album, "Risin' Outlaw," while the second featured thrashing, metallic-punk tunes that approached Fugazi-like intensity.

Although he relished the punk part, his young to middle-aged audience thinned slightly by the end. Still, it was a fairly adept balancing act, allowing Williams to be his own man while keeping alive the disreputable spirit that's part of his heritage.

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