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Keepers of their fathers' flames

October 22, 2008|Randy Lewis; Margaret Wappler

Hank Williams III

"Damn Right Rebel Proud"


* * *

Waylon Jennings & the 357's

"Waylon Forever"


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Hank Williams III and Shooter Jennings wrestle with the legacies of their celebrated ancestors in new albums, Williams doing it with the attitude in his music and lyrics, Jennings by completing a collaboration he started with his father a dozen years ago.

We've long known Hank III got his daddy's gene for self-congratulatory rebelliousness; now, there are more signs he also got some of his granddaddy's talent for mapping complex emotions with a few economical strokes of the pen. In "Damn Right Rebel Proud" he careens from the stone country remorse of "I Wish I Knew" to the psychobilly ode to the truck-driving man of "H8 Line" to the 10-minute epic "P.F.F." offered in tribute to G.G. Allin.

As for Jennings, it's remarkably good to hear Waylon's extraordinary voice, even if the majority of these eight songs, among the last things he recorded before his death six years ago at age 64, revisit tunes from his '70s heyday.

The album teams him with Shooter's band, the 357's. Shooter and album co-producer Dave Cobb add more rock drive and sonic punch to "Are You Ready for the Country?" and Rodney Crowell's "I Ain't Living Long Like This." There's an intriguing rendition of Cream's "White Room," but the real gem is "Outlaw [Expletive]," a darker-hued update of his 1978 song "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand."

Shooter's still working on distinguishing his own music from the high-water mark his father established. But bringing Waylon's voice back into the spotlight one more time surely earns him points in Outlaw Heaven.

-- Randy Lewis


Harnessing a torrent of ideas

Of Montreal

"Skeletal Lamping"


* * 1/2

With Of Montreal's last album, "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" Kevin Barnes and his collective based in Athens, Ga., managed to control the frontman's psychological, psychedelic maelstrom. Unfortunately, "Skeletal Lamping" could've used a tougher editor.

There are 1,000 ideas in 15 songs, and all of them are appealing. But most get short shrift in this manic adventure that bogs down with exhaustive tonal changes and an overreliance on Barnes' layered falsetto vocals. "NonPareil of Favor" taxes with several shifts, including a graceless, pounding interlude on guitar and drums.

When the album sits still for long enough, the gems of Barnes' evolved identity- and gender-hopping persona shine through. In "Beware Our Nubile Miscreants," he warns a friend not to get involved with a guy who has "serious predatory domination issues . . . he's the sort of guy who will leave you in a K-hole to play 'Halo' in the other room."

In some songs, Barnes amps the persona to a point where it's outside of himself. It's strutting work that only the sexual superego of Georgie Fruit, a "black she-male," can handle.

There are many moments when the crush of ideas works right. "Touched Something's Hollow" is a weary-soul piano ballad that opens up to the redeeming horns of "An Eluardian Instance," one of Barnes' best.

-- Margaret Wappler

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