The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Live Shots

Thursday Night

Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, March 17, 2000, Music

Hank Williams III, Ray Price

Waterloo Park

It was one of those weird changes in weather that native Texans knowingly refer to as a "narther," catching much of the audience unprepared in T-shirts and shorts, wind flapping the banners onstage like it was the North Atlantic. The youngest Hank Williams warmed things up, though, taking his grandpa's corpse, rattling its bones, filling it with pinebud smoke and Jim Beam, and goose-stepping it around like a spastic marionette with broken legs. Hank the Youngest resembles his Pa-paw to the point of being spooky, his features as sunken and chiseled as Kaw-Liga himself. His high lonesome yowl is as close to both Hank II and Hank the Eldest as we'll ever hear, as evidenced on his covers of Spade Cooley's "Drinking Wine Spo-De-O-Dee" and Hank Sr.'s own tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, "Long Gone Blues." (For those unfamiliar with "wine spo-de-o-dee," it refers to the somewhat vile practice of downing a shot of port wine, followed by a shot of whisky, then chased down the gullet with another shot of port wine.) Jesus Lizardite Duane Denison attacks his Scotty Moore Gibson like Cliff Gallup on psilocybin, while Hank the Youngest updates his grandpap's drinkin' songs for the 21st century, ending the set with the defiantly un-PC "I Wanna Put the Dick Back in Dixie and the Cunt Back in Country." Hank III's attitude and style may not get him very far with the Jimmy Bowen Nashville establishment, but his talent should carry him way beyond that. It's a family tradition. Speaking of Nashville, many traditional country purists tend to lump Ray Price in with Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, and the "countrypolitan" movement that began to overrun Nashville in the early Sixties. However, all the honky-tonk prigs can go spit up their left pants leg; Ray Price is as much of a soul singer as Al Green or Marvin Gaye, and he belongs in a class totally by himself. Price knows all about Texas narthers, walking out onstage bundled up in several layers to brave the elements. His 37(!)-piece band, however, was a bit underdressed, the men attired like funeral directors, the pedal steel player wearing that same dead-serious expression that good pedal steel guys have, somewhere between college professor and alchemist. "San Antonio Rose," "Heartaches by the Number," "Spanish Eyes," Mansion on the Hill," "Night Life" -- Price ran through all the favorites, as smoooooovely as would be expected. Well into his 70s, Ray Price can still deliver the goods in a way that younger singers can only hope to, as melancholy as a shriveled rose and as wryly romantic as a gin fizz. Those who stuck it out against that sudden narther were rewarded with a showcase of the old, the new, and the old and new brought together.

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