Hank3, aka Shelton Hank Williams III, unleashes an epic collection of new music next week. Released by his own Hank3 Records, the two-CD Ghost To A Ghost/Guttertown features country and Cajun songs plus moody soundscapes. A third CD, Attention Deficit Domination, shifts to Black Sabbath-inspired doom rock, and the fourth disc, Cattle Callin, welds speed metal to rapid-fire livestock auctioneering.
Williams’ four-pronged sonic onslaught arrives Tuesday, Sept. 6. The date represents his personal independence day, a declaration of independence from his longtime Nashville label, Curb Records.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do this again in my life,” he said this week of the four-CD release. “It was a very intense project. I’m very proud to be able to pull it off and start my new record label with a good bit of diversity.”
Williams always strives to break the mold. Having released just five Curb albums during his 14 years with the company, he’s making a statement by issuing four CDs in a single day.
“My job is to play music, be creative and do different things,” he said. “All that was taken away from me for many, many years.”
To the best of Williams’ knowledge, no one has simultaneously released four newly recorded studio albums.
“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “I’m not comparing myself as a musician to Frank Zappa, because I would suck compared to him, but Frank Zappa’s about the only other guy who tried to do this and, sure enough, his record label wouldn’t let him follow his vision.”
Prior to next week, Williams mostly released country songs.
“But over the years people have said, ?Oh, Hank3, he does this, he does that. He’s a multi-genre artist.’ OK, well, if I’m all those things, here it is for you to really grasp and see what a heavy-duty worker I am, how I can come up with different voices and DIY it.”
Williams recorded the CDs at his home studio on a $400 machine. He mixed and mastered the recordings himself. In addition to writing songs, singing and playing guitar, he played drums for every track.
“And I got a bunch of the old super pickers together and had a great time making the records,” he said.
Free at last, Williams began writing for his new albums Jan. 2, the day after his contract with Curb ended.
“Instead of having a big party or whatever, I started being creative,” he said. “I don’t have to go through five lawyers anymore to record a song. And I work with people who respect what I do. That was a big thing. It’s not fun to work with someone who doesn’t respect what you do.”
In another first, Williams said, he can sell his music at his shows.
“I wanted to give my fans the opportunity to either get a country or a doom or a speed metal CD,” he said.
Williams likely would have had a prosperous career had he stuck with country, but his musical diversity is too important to be ignored.
“If I was just a country singer, my crowd would not be near as cool as it is,” he said. “If I was just a heavy metal performer, it wouldn’t be as special as it is. I take pride in having folks 18 to 80 coming to see us. And I’m a drummer, so I’m naturally gonna like all these different styles of music.”
Diversity also helps him establish an identity beyond that his famous father and grandfather.
“Hank Jr. and Hank Sr. covered the country world as much as you can cover it,” Hank3 said. “So I had to go where they have never been.”
But like his grandfather, whose classics include “Jambalaya,” the younger Williams feels a deep connection to Louisiana. He’s filled his Guttertown CD, for instance, with Cajun-style songs.
“That music has always helped me calm down,” he said. “When I’ve felt I’m in a bad place, Nathan Abshire and guys like that always soothed my soul. There’s nothing like that old sound that they were capturing back in the day. It’s really special stuff.”
When he recorded Guttertown’s Cajun songs, Williams recalled, “I imagined myself being in a huge drum circle with just my acoustic guitar while everybody hit their drums. It was a lot of fun.”
Performing in Williams’ band can be challenging, especially when it’s time to play speed metal, especially if you’re the drummer.
“It’s not an easy task to perform speed metal every day,” he said. “But as long as you can halfway paint the picture of the music, I’m not gonna be riding you too hard.
“But I do expect the best from you. When it’s time to play, it’s time to play. I’m always ready. If you come to me and say, ?Let’s jam,’ I’m jamming. A lot of people might think, ?Oh, Hank3, he’s stoned and drunk.’ Well, my work ethic is pretty intense, man. You’ll lose some weight when you’re in my band.”