Hank Williams, Jr. Goes Back To His Roots With Rich White Honky Blues

by Preshias Harris / 11 days ago / Comments
#

New album mixes Thunderhead originals with the Blues that inspired him

Hank Williams, Jr. has long been known to his millions of country music fans as Bocephus, a nickname given to him by his father who named him after the dummy used by Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist Rod Brasfield. (Yeah, thanks dad.)

But Hank Jr. has another alter ego, lesser known by most country fans. As Thunderhead Hawkins, he morphs into a full-blown Blues shouter, as evidenced at the album release party I attended recently for his latest project titled Rich White Honky Blues.

Williams acknowledges with the album’s title that, yes, he is a “rich white honky” and he doesn’t care if some people think he doesn’t have the right to sing the blues. In fact, at this stage of his life, he doesn’t need to care what people think about anything he does – not that he ever did.

But he is no newcomer to the Blues. His father, as a child in Greenville, Alabama, was allegedly taught to play blues licks by singer and guitarist Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. Hank Jr. himself grew up with the music of Muddy Waters and Big Joe Turner in his ears and in his blood.

“The Blues is where it all comes from,” said Williams. “It’s the start of everything musical in my family; everything starts with Tee-Tot and flows from there.  I’ve always flirted with this stripped-back blues – all the way to the ‘80s. But I finally made an album that’s just that, and I like it.” 

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (@danauerbach) was the ideal producer for this project and put together a wicked core band to get behind Williams’ voice: electric slide guitarist Kenny Brown, bassist Eric Deaton and drummer Kinney Kimbrough. Auerbach allows Williams and the band to pretty much just let it rip, and the album was essentially recorded live, complete with spoken comments and asides by Williams on a couple of tracks.

Williams gives us his raw renditions of songs such as the Lightnin’ Hopkins number, “My Starter Won’t Start,” Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me Baby” and a quick nod to Robert Johnson with the album’s opening track, “.44 Special Blues.”  There are original compositions here too, including “Call Me Thunderhead,” referring to his alter ego, Thunderhead Hawkins. In the album’s title track he pays tribute to some of the bluesmen who inspired him:

I was raised on Bo Diddley / Jimmy Reed and Bobby Blue

I hung out with Lightnin’ Hopkins / John Lee Hooker, just to name a few

Listen to the album’s title track at YouTube here.

Neither the originals nor the covers shy away from the adult themes of desire, cheating and revenge – and the occasional profanity that earned the album its ‘Explicit Lyrics” label.  But if Williams (or Thunderhead) was going to make a Blues album, he wasn’t going to clean it up the way Pat Boone changed the lyrics in his version of “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” to “Having Fun Spo-Dee-O-Dee.” Thunderhead Hawkins isn’t Pat Boone and anyway, he knew none of these the tracks on Rich White Honky Blues will get aired on Country radio.

Is this an album for Bocephus’ country fans? Probably not. But there’s no doubt that Williams has put his heart and soul into it – and proves he’s not just a rich white honky.

Released in the USA on July 17, Rich White Honky Blues is available in CD, Vinyl and Digital versions. More about the album, including purchasing information and upcoming tour dates here. Follow Hank Williams, Jr. on Twitter (@HankJr) and Instagram (@officialhankjr)

 

 

Follow Hank Williams Jr.  

Hank Williams Jr. Tour Dates

08/09/2022 : Jackson County Fairgrounds: Jackson, MI
08/12/2022 : Beaver Dam Amphitheater: Beaver Dam, KY
08/13/2022 : Neon Nights Festival: North Lawrence, OH

About Preshias Harris

Preshias Harris Journalist

Preshias Harris is a music journalist who has interviewed everyone from Alabama to ZZ Top for articles and stories published in numerous music magazines. She is the author of longest-running monthly country music column in America and authored The College of Songology™ 101: The Singer/Songwriter’s ‘Need To Know’ Reference Handbook. As a music career development consultant with special emphasis on emerging and aspiring artists and songwriters, she focuses on ‘chasing the dream’ while understanding the realities of the music industry. She maintains a writers’ room on Music Row – named The Sangtuary – for her clients and their co-writers. She is a member of ASCAP (as a publisher), BMI, The Country Music Association (CMA), The Recording Academy, The National Association of Talent Directors (NATD) and a life member of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

You can find out more about Preshias at https://www.collegeofsongology.com and find her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com