Bubba Sparks

All those settled-down friends are rowdy again, so country boy Bocephus will survive

Maybe it's from kicking it with Kid Rock, or could be he's looking over his shoulder at Shelton, a/k/a Hank III. And then there's the way Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, and Toby Keith are taking his neo-Southern macho shtick to the bank. But for whatever reason, and with a new album as proof, Hank Williams Jr. gives a shit again.

Some would argue that 2002's Almeria Club marked the turning point, but as "authentic" as its blues exercises were, the record smacked of didacticism and nostalgia. Give or take the wry admonition of "The 'F' Word," much of it felt like a play for nonbelievers who had written Bocephus off as the clown prince of Monday night football.

Not so with I'm One of You, where Junior dispenses with pretense and gets back to what he does best: making meaty, beaty records long on high times, goodwill, and cracker-barrel philosophizing aimed squarely at the silent majority. The three drinking songs could pass for prime Possum. And the punning "Why Can't We All Just Get a Long Neck," while naive, proffers a vision of community akin to Keith's "I Love This Bar"—one that reaches well beyond Hank and all his rowdy friends.

Junior's pedigree might make the title track's "I'm Your Bubba" claim ring aw-shucks hollow, but searching entreaties like "Do You Feel a Little Bit Out of Touch or Politically Incorrect?" argue otherwise. He earns the self-deprecating "Just Enough To Get in Trouble," steel-slaked "Devil in the Bottle," and Telecaster-cast tribute to Waylon's guitar playing. Even his Luddite swipe at cyber culture gets in a few licks. And for self-mythologizing there's the nearly definitive, ZZ Top-inspired cover of Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses": a Rabelaisian fabrication of which Bocephus, who hasn't sounded this committed in years, is living proof.

 
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