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Hank Williams Jr.

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Those who have always ignored Hank Williams Jr., either because he couldn't live up to daddy's legacy, or because songs like "If the South Woulda Won" gave the impression that he was that kind of rebel, are in for a surprise with his new release Almeria Club.The CD's title comes from the venue where most of it was recorded, an Alabama spot where Hank Sr. used to play back in the '40s. Perhaps taking a cue from Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, Junior decided it was time to reclaim legitimacy, so he hired some bluegrass virtuosos to make an album with that rustic smell. The big surprise, other than how fun and loose it all is, is how devoid of jingoism the project is at a time when he could have capitalized on it a la Charlie Daniels. Even "America Will Survive," an update of "Country Boy," et al., is mainly a renunciation of Southern chauvinism is favor of national unity.

Mostly, though, Junior's subject is sex, and his subtext is the black blues and its oft-forgotten relationship with white country. It's suggested mostly by the excellent music, which makes that bridge between the two seem like just a few steps over the creek. But he states it explicitly on "The Tee Tot Song," the story of Rufus Payne, a black man who taught Junior's daddy to play guitar at a street corner shoeshine stand they worked together.

As for the sex songs, they're funny, and bluesy, too. Best of all is "Big Top Women," an ode to watching well-endowed ladies bounce up and down the courthouse steps. The way ol' Hank inflects "ba-ba-boom" is worth the price of the whole CD--it's pure Hee Haw.

For Hank Williams Jr. to make such an appealing album is surprising enough. For him to make an album that actually makes himself, Hank Williams Jr., seem likable, is a miracle.

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