By Al Kaufman
Hank III never had a good relationship with Curb Records. They thought they were signing a old-fashioned country singer that was more like his grandfather than his dad. What they got is a kid who likes punk and thrash metal more than anything else. The whole thing came to a head when III turned in a CD called This Ain’t Country. Curb refused to release it and refused to let III shop it anywhere else.
Ten years later, and now that III is out of his contract with Curb and will not make any money on the sales, Curb (Bruc, “Curb” spelled backwards, is their sister rock label. Sidewalk is Mike Curb’s original label) is releasing the CD as Hillbilly Joker. Hank does not even mention the release on his website, but when asked about it said, “Don’t buy it, but get it some other way and burn the hell out of it and give it to everyone.” He has been performing parts of the CD for years with his hardcore band, Assjack. It’s been his version of Prince’s Black Album; too naughty (and noncommercial) to release at the time, but could be found in bootleg versions. Now that it is out, people will wonder what the big deal was.
People by now are well aware of Hank’s affinity for thrash and speed metal. They are aware of Assjack. Some fans were fooled by this release because they thought they were getting a country release. Perhaps they would have known better if Curb chose to keep the original title. As it is now, only the opening and closing tracks, “Hillbilly Joker” and “Hellbilly,” respectively, and “Life of Sin” have even a touch of Hank’s drawl. It’s like if Kid Rock decided to front Fear Factory. The rest of the CD is full of heavy, buzzing guitars, distorted vocal shreddings, f-bombs, references to getting stoned and drunk, and some kind of occasional special effect that sounds like a hog from Hades. It’s fun, loud, fast, and noisy. There are lots of redneck metal-heads out there who like their women and music that way. For them this is manna from heaven.