The three faces of Hank 3

Posted: March 19, 2012

As the grandson of country's founding father, Hank Williams III - currently billing himself as Hank 3 - is a direct heir to the music's roots. But rather than fall back on his lineage, Williams offers himself as a musical mongrel, continuing some traditions and establishing a few of his own.

The supreme statement of Williams' divergent desires arrived last fall, when at the end of an oft-acrimonious relationship with Nashville's Curb Records, he simultaneously self-released three albums: Gutter Town/Ghost to Ghost, a double-CD of high-octane country rock; Attention Deficit Domination, a collection of death-metal dirges; and Cattle Callin, credited to 3 Bar Ranch, which marries distorted guitar riffs to the warp-speed patter of cattle auctioneers.

Friday's three-part Trocadero concert took in all of Williams' musical guises. First came a 90-minute country set, with a five-piece band including banjo, fiddle, and standup bass, then an hour-plus each for A.D.D. and 3 Bar Ranch. For the latter two, the stage was plunged into darkness, with most light coming from the overhead projection of Craig Baldwin's apocalyptic found-footage film Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America.

Williams keeps his musical personae distinct, but the country songs offered hints of heaviness to come, like the thudding double bass drums in "Ghost to a Ghost." The lyrics stuck to tried-and-true themes of lawbreaking and substance abuse, but contemporary country shows rarely feature slam dancing during the steel guitar solos.

Williams took a short break after the opening set, returning with just a drummer and an electric guitar, and the crowd began to dwindle from a near-full house to a dedicated handful. Those who left early escaped a lot of same-sounding sludge, but they also missed a cameo by Bobby Leibling, the singer of unsung heavy-metal heroes Pentagram, whose fortunes have been lately revived by the documentary portrait Last Days Here. With long, gray hair, Leibling was old enough to be Williams' father, but he's just one of many forebears the protean headliner can claim.

|
|
|
|
|