Hank Williams III has finally kicked Curb Records to the curb.
The son of Hank Williams Jr., and grandson of the legendary Hank Williams, he has had a rocky relationship with Curb since he first signed to the country label in 1996. He accused the label of meddling with his 1999 debut solo album “Risin’ Outlaw” almost immediately after its release, and the label refused to release his rock album “This Ain’t Country” in 2003.
Over the course of 15 years with the label, Williams struggled to give equal voice to both his traditional country side and his metal and punk rock roots. He also spent most of that time struggling to get off the label altogether, and this year he finally succeeded.
“That was many, many lawyers, many, many arguments to do my time,” Williams said recently from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. “They didn’t respect me as a person or as an artist — but you know, why hold on to me? That’s just how Curb Records does business. It doesn’t matter if it’s me or Tim McGraw — he’s in the same position I was, except that I didn’t make them that much money and he’s made them millions.
“There’s an old saying — ‘You’ll never get out of Curb Records alive,’ ” he continued. “I’m one of the few that fought the fight, did my time, and I’m still here to talk about it and have a new beginning.”
Hank Williams III
with Hellbilly, Attention Deficit Domination, 3 Bar Ranch
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Northern Lights, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park
How Much: $18 (doors); $16 (advance)
More Info: 371-0012, www.northernlightslive.com
Williams wasted no time reclaiming his music career from Curb. In September, he released four albums on his newly christened Hank3 Records — the alternative country album “Ghost to a Ghost” and the Cajun-inspired “Guttertown” (which were released together as a double CD), the sludge metal “Attention Deficit Domination” and an album combining speed metal and cattle calling into a genre Williams is referring to as cattle core, “3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’.”
“As of Jan. 2, my way of celebrating [leaving Curb] was to sit down and start writing new material,” he said. “And then, on Feb. 1, I hit the record button. I was serious in the daytime, worrying about being in pitch, in tune and in time, and then at night I would open it up, have fun — if it was experimental on the Cajun stuff, or heavy metal chunk guitar tracks for ‘Three Bar Ranch.’ I wouldn’t be as serious in the nighttime, but it was full-on, February until June.”
As soon as the records were finished, Williams hit the road in July and has been going on and off since. He’ll bring all sides of his musical persona to Northern Lights on Sunday night — performing his country cuts with his band Hellbilly, the doom metal with Attention Deficit Domination and the cattle core with 3 Bar Ranch.
“All in all, I’m one of the few country artists out there to have a very consistent mosh pit,” he said. “I go through a lot of moods — it goes from rowdy and rambunctious country to some strange, weird moods, and then at the very end of the night going back to the full-on Slayer kind of music.”
Fans who have seen Williams’ three-plus hour live show have experienced his many different moods. For the first time, he’s been able to represent that on record with his four new releases, blending sounds and styles at a whim. So crunching metal guitars are as equally at home on “Ghost to a Ghost” as twanging banjo and fiddle, while “3 Bar Ranch” throws the fiddles into speed metal.
“It’s just breaking people in, to let them know that they can’t really pigeonhole me,” Williams said. “I’ve got the rest of my life to be a purist as far as the acoustic sound, and I will always be connected to my roots. Yeah, there’s maybe five or six country songs on this, out of 20, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s not. I’m just a diverse musician, and I usually have a very open-minded crowd; that’s what it goes back to.”
The new releases also find him exploring new musical territory, though it’s all deeply rooted in his experience. The zydeco and Cajun sounds on “Guttertown” go back to his family’s deep ties to Louisiana.
“My grandfather was very close to ‘Louisiana Hayride’ and Cajun folks in general,” Williams said. “That kind of music always helped me through my darkest hours, and always made me feel a lot more calm. My dad was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so it was just kind of a natural thing for me, and a lot of fun.”
Likewise, “Attention Deficit Domination” finds him exploring a different side of the metal genre than he has with his thrashing band Assjack. Williams, despite his family’s country largesse, got his start in music playing drums in hardcore punk and metal bands. However, he’s mostly stuck to the speedier side of things, though he’s always been a fan of slower, sludgier tempos.
“I’ve always been a fan, if it’s the Melvins or Sleet,” Williams said. “I’m a gear head — I like collecting older cabinets and amps and stuff like that, and I really wanted to put across the biggest guitar sound that I could.”
But perhaps most unusual for Williams is “3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’,” in which he teamed up with famous cattle auctioneers such as Tim Dowler and Mitch Jordan. The album’s speed metal riffs are teamed with the rapid-fire delivery of the cattle callers basically just doing what they do at auctions.
“I lost over 50 percent, most of the guys that I wanted to use, because I was trying to tell them, ‘You’re not gonna understand it; you’re not gonna like it; but you need to know that I’m not making fun of the industry or what you do,’ ” Williams said. “I worked on cattle farms — I’ve carried the dead ones off to the dying hole. I used to go to auctioneers with my granddad, go to the auctions.”