Let me up, I’ve had enough of hillbilly rednecks in media—tattoo parlor employees, topers in trailers, ultimate fighters, backyard wrestlers, punching and kicking roller derby girls, and Gretchen Wilson spitting tobacco juice in a paper cup during face-to-face conversations. It’s not entertaining and real, it’s crass and predictable. If they’re the salt of the earth, then common sense and civic responsibility require us to round them up for burial at a condemned Superfund site.
Hank III’s Straight to Hell emerges from the same landfills, slag heaps, and strip mines of the interior. It’s supposed to be all about being an outlaw and a pill-gobbling rebel, Hank III not “giving a damn what anybody thinks.” But Hank III is nothing so complex. He’s just an intelligence-insulting dolt, flashing the horns hand sign like every other clown at the rock club, his spindly arms so festooned with black and blue inkings he looks gangrenous.
Straight to Hell is a double dose of headache and blight, medium-tempo and slow country tunes about funnin’ and gunnin’ and Hank III’s lawyer-shooting shotgun. Weedy, nasal, and hookless: By the time Hank III gets to the song about his love being his drinking problem, everyone will be wishing they were suffering blackouts. No such luck—there are four more tracks to endure plus a bonus CD, Louisiana Stripes. The song of that name asks you to buy the notion, should you feel compelled to rob a bank or perhaps shoot a lawyer, that the best friends are made in prison. So make sure you do your crime in Shreveport.
Stripes, the second volume, is fart from manure-flecked hillbilly pastures, with found local noises separating songs from the first CD. They’re not exactly identical—although one about the lawyer shotgun is—but they might as well be; the listener won’t be able to tell the difference. Antagonizingly, it’s programmed so it can’t be skipped through. And all of it’s proudly recorded on a spend-$400-and-walk-out-the-door-of-Guitar-Center-with-it digital recording station, Hank III thinking the idea hasn’t already occurred to everyone with a band page on MySpace.