Yodel with the Devil

Hank III sells his rock and roll soul to sing like Granddad

"I'd rather sing about something dark instead of something bright," he muses. "If it's drugs, if it's drinking, if it's partying, or even if it's four-wheeling -- I've always been attracted to the dark side. I don't know why, but it reflects in both my metal and my country music."

The darkness keeps Hank III interested in honky-tonk swing; he just hopes someday he'll have the opportunity to release rock as well. "Then people will see how versatile I am and how much stuff I write and try to create," he says. In the meantime Hank III performs his unreleased Black Flag- and Melvins-inspired thrash between country sets at his live dates. The result, he reports, is an eclectic mix of fans, from cowboys and hard-rocking grandmas to bikers and stoned-out freaky kids. "The show is total Jekyll and Hyde," he grins. "We're one of the few bands that go from honky-tonk to almost the verge of death metal."

That doesn't mean Shelton hasn't earned the scorn of some country and hard-rock fans. But Hank III stands his ground. "If people are getting pissed off at me for sounding like Hank Williams," he rails, "if that's the worst compliment they can give us, then fine. I'd much rather sound like Hank Williams than Brad Paisley or Chad Brock or some shit like that. If people say I'm selling off that sound, well, sorry dude, I got the look and the sound for some reason."

Metal mood: Hank III as long-haired, tattooed slacker
Metal mood: Hank III as long-haired, tattooed slacker

And just because that look and sound sell doesn't mean Hank III has to be grateful. It's just that for the moment, he can't live with Nashville -- and he can't live without it. As he moans on the Lovesick track "Trashville": "Now I would pack up and I'd leave this dirty town/But they done taken me for so much, that I can't get out now/Maybe one day but not right now."

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