NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Hank Williams, Jr. is a country singer, record executive and political pundit, and he wears all those hats on his new CD, “Old School, New Rules”. He picks up on politics where he left off last year with some more fighting words for President Barack Obama.
Williams calls himself “an executive hillbilly,” but he’s more than that. The second son in a line of country stars - legend Hank Williams is his dad and country/punk/metal singer Hank III his son - Williams is known for such standards as “Family Tradition” and “A Country Boy Can Survive.” He runs his own label and scouts for up-and-coming talent.
He speaks his mind, too, and has become a voice for some Americans who are discontent with Obama. Last year, cable TV network ESPN pulled his song from its “Monday Night Football” telecast after he publicly compared Obama to Adolf Hitler.
But the singer turned the backlash to his advantage by gaining some new fans for his outspokenness, and he continues to voice his political with the new CD released this week.
The opening track, “Take Back Our Country,” includes lyrics like “...I’ll go find a network wants to treat me right, y’all can take the change and stick it out of sight” and “Hey Barack pack your bags, head to Chicago, take your teleprompter with you so you’ll know where to go...”
Love him or not, Williams and his music always bears his unique take on life, whether he’s mixing country with southern rock or throwing in the blues. He writes most of his songs, and those on “Old School, New Rules” are no exception.
“I got pretty motivated on this,” Williams told Reuters. “The people, the fans, have inspired me and I guess that’s why I wrote 10 and a half songs for the album. We have sold several hundred thousand dollars-worth of t-shirts that say ‘Take Back Our Country.’ It’s snowballing.”
“Who knew Mickey Mouse and ESPN would put me in the forefront? I’m the mouthpiece for grandmothers who lost everything,” he said, referring to the cable TV network’s parent, The Walt Disney Co.
“I had an 11-year-old write me, ‘My parents said you were a good role model for me, could you send me a picture?’ We’re also hearing from military personnel, saying, ‘We’re behind you 100 percent.’ It’s all good; it’s really special,” he said.
Other politically-charged songs on the album include, “We Don’t Apologize for America” and “Who’s Taking Care of Number One?” but there are many other songs that avoid the subject.
Williams’ family tradition calls for a few drinkin’ songs, and there are those, too. He partners with Brad Paisley on “I’m Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams” and with Merle Haggard on his classic “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.”
The tune “Old School” is a song that seems it could only have been written by a member of a country dynasty. The opening lyric is “I remember a young Johnny Cash waiting in the wings, ‘cause he’d hand me his cigarette when he’d go out to sing...”
The singer talks about first meeting Dolly Parton as a teenager - and watching industry folk fall over themselves to meet her - and about hearing Jerry Lee Lewis play rock ‘n roll at his home.
“I never knew who would be there when I woke up,” said Williams of his life growing up in Nashville with his mother, Audrey Williams, who promoted the young Hank as a singer of his father’s songs. Williams took banjo lessons from Earl Scruggs and learned boogie woogie piano from Lewis.
Williams said he was very passionate about making the new album and agrees that he leaves no room for people to wonder where he stands when it comes to his beliefs about the direction in which the United States is headed.
“I’ve always been that way. If you like it, fine; if you don’t, great ... People everywhere from New York to California can’t take it anymore, and they are ready for a change.”
“Old School, New Rules” was produced by Williams’ company, Bocephus Records.
Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Andrew Hay