With this week’s album pick it’s time to go country. It’s the second album from a third-generation star who would begin sowing the seeds of rebellion against the Nashville establishment (especially his own record label) and those taken aback at someone going his own way as opposed to living in the shadow of his father’s and grandfather’s legacies.
Hank Williams III – Lovesick, Broke And Driftin’
Released January 29, 2002 via Curb Records
My Favorite Tracks – Cecil Brown, Mississippi Mud, One Horse Town
It took three years for Hank III to see the release of his second album. His debut Rising Outlaw was marred by Hank’s unhappiness with a sterile country sound and being largely a covers album. His second effort was recorded in a few weeks at home and is all original compositions save for the last track. This would be an album Hank could be proud of and tour behind, unlike his debut which he talked down in the music press.
The atmosphere found on this album does not invoke the kind of “country” found in a warehouse-sized bar on the suburb outskirts that plays more dance music than country. This is the backwoods, dirt road kind of country where the only civilization to be found is a shady dive bar or a nondescript liquor store. There are 13 tracks to get through on this album so let’s have at it.
7 Months, 39 Days
We begin with a bit of a trucker’s song, though this trucker booked an extended stay at the county sheriff’s hotel. It’s a fun song that sees the subject at the end of his lockup and hitting the highway to get the hell out of dodge. The upbeat tempo is slowed down at the end to give a bit of atmosphere to the number.
Broke, Lovesick And Driftin’
This song settles into a more slow and somber feel, something in abundance on this record. It’s an ode to the lonely lifestyle of a honkytonk drifter, playing tunes from town to town and not having a stable, anchored home life. While a lament, the tune doesn’t do anything to discourage said lifestyle.
This melancholy tune was written about someone Hank knew growing up in southwest Missouri (about 100 miles from where I live currently). It’s a haunting account of someone who didn’t fit in where he was and the alienation and abandonment just flow forth from the mournful song.
And I do definitely “feel” this song to a degree. I also grew up in a small Missouri town where I didn’t fit in much at all. I won’t say my childhood was bad by any stretch, but there was a lot of alienation and ultimately getting the hell out of there to find a sense of self somewhere else. It’s a song I truly do identify with.
Lovin’ And Huggin’
The tempo is back up for this fun and brief number about being in and out of love. The song is as simple as it gets but is also very fun and expertly placed in album sequence to cut the weight of the prior track.
One Horse Town
This is an old-time country tune that plods through life being down and out in nowhere. It’s the kind of song that people who don’t listen to country think country is. Even with the cliched feel the song evokes its atmosphere very well and handles traditional country expertly. It keeps things upbeat despite the low down struggle.
This song is cited by many as their favorite from the album, it is the consensus pick for the star of the show. It’s another fun number that stays out of the city and finds fun out on the backroads. Nothing like partying out away from it all.
Whiskey, Weed And Women
Another lament about life lost to the 3 W’s, as it were. The song certainly captures that old-time feel, though it does go all-in on the country cliches. Maybe not the strongest effort around but it does flow with the rest of the album pretty well.
The pace picks up big time here for Hank’s first open shot fired at Nashville’s establishment. For its time the song was quite the talking point to hear someone from the Williams family and a Curb Records employee going at the establishment like this. But Trashville was just a warm-up, and a few years later Hank would release a track that makes this sound downright pedestrian by comparison.
Walkin’ With Sorrow
Yet again Hank is drinking his way through loneliness and sorrow. This time he offers up a bit of yodeling to the old-time dirge, something in line with his legendary grandfather.
5 Shots Of Whiskey
Again here we are with the alcohol and loneliness. This song does feel a bit more fleshed out than the other laments that really just string a few phrases together and rely on the music to carry the tunes. There is a story to these lyrics and a reason for the depression.
Nighttime Ramblin’ Man
Turn it up to 11 for this one, this is a total barn-burner. It’s an ode to partying and raising hell and is also a sign of things to come from Hank III. While the title borrows in part from a Hank Sr song, III makes this all his own and puts his own signature on the line. Rising Outlaw may have been the name of III’s first album but this song is where the outlaw truly rises.
Callin’ Your Name
One more down in the dumps tune, this time Hank is calling out to the Lord for help and mercy. The lyrical tone is slightly different but the song doesn’t really set itself apart from the sundry other sad songs on the album.
The only song not written by Hank III on the album, this Bruce Springsteen cover was previously recorded for a Springsteen tribute album and was appended to this record by the label. The cover is well done, ramping up the country feel of Springsteen’s country-adjacent effort. Note that this song isn’t available on streaming. Some versions of the album have a bit of a “hidden” song on the same track as Atlantic City, with a radio DJ announcement and another performance of Walkin’ With Sorrow.
Lovesick, Broke And Driftin’ would mark what Hank III felt was his true debut album. Almost entirely composed by him, he bucked Nashville trends and his record label’s direction to cut the album he wanted to make. He had reluctantly began a music career in country due to a legal order to come up with money, so now he was able to begin functioning on his own terms.
And yes, while the album has several highlights, some of it does get a bit derivative. Many of the slower, sad songs are really pedestrian and don’t offer a ton in the way of dynamic songwriting or structure. There still is something to them, perhaps a bit of a callback to Hank Sr. and his way with pulling at the heartstrings. The songs do work but after an album’s worth they kind of run together a bit.
For Hank III this album was really the beginning. He would wind up in court with Curb Records over his contract and desire for creative control and his next album four years later would truly cement him as his own performer and forge an insurgent outlaw country scene that would shift music’s landscape. But this album showed that Hank III knew where the music he was making came from. He would absolutely blaze his own trail and get far out of the long shadow cast by his family name, but he still knew his way around country music. With drink in hand and sorrow in heart, the party was just getting started.