Hank Williams Jr.
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Bocephus recorded most of this at an ancient Alabama social club where, legend has it, his mother and dad once played. But like most Hank Jr. albums, quality material coexists with swaggering self-indulgence like "The F-Word" (with Kid Rock
) and "The Last Pork Chop" (needlessly reprised acoustically), which is sung under Williams's blues alter ego Thunderhead Hawkins. Less bombast means considerable improvement on the atmospheric "The Cheatin' Hotel" and "Tee Tot Song," an homage to Hank Sr.
's original guitar teacher. "Cross on the Highway," an elegy for Hank Jr.'s friends (football star Derrick Thomas and Mike Tellis) killed in a car crash, effectively revives the Luke the Drifter spirit. "America Will Survive" is his post-September 11 revamping of "A Country Boy Can Survive." Yet "If The Good Lord's Willin'" (written to a set of Hank Sr. lyrics), the trivial "X-Treme Country," and "Big Top Women" are all so musically similar they nearly run together. In all, it's regrettable that an album seemingly conceived as a journey of rediscovery doesn't always pan out that way. --Rich Kienzle