Sam Williams Is Hank Williams’ Grandson. His Debut Album Sounds Nothing Like You’d Expect
When Hank Williams Jr. began his music career in the Sixties, he did little to distance himself from the shadow cast by his monumental father. He released albums with titles like Songs My Father Left Me, sang “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey Good Lookin’” in the same lonesome style, and appeared onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, the very institution that fired his dad in 1952. The pressure to imitate Hank Williams and fill the void left by his untimely death at 29 was great, and it nearly swallowed him whole.
Sam Williams, the son of Hank Jr. and grandson of Hank, has no such problem.
On his debut album Glasshouse Children, he dives headlong into the creation of his own eclectic style, a mix of synth pop, emo-Americana, and pop-country made with Nashville producers like Jaren Johnston and Paul Moak. The album cover depicts Williams not in rhinestones but in a shimmering metallic suit, his head coyly cocked. In press photos, his cheeks are decorated with glittery gold tears. Glasshouse Children then is the sound and the look of an artist influenced by old ghosts, but shaped by the aesthetics and experiences of coming of age in the 21st century.
“I couldn’t make the same famous country albums that you know of years past, because I didn’t live that person’s life,” Williams, 24, tells Rolling Stone. “My grandfather was raised in rural south Alabama in the 1930s and before the era of World War II, in the poverty of the South. And I wasn’t. I grew up in the 2000s in west Tennessee, privileged. So I really try to write and sing about the things that I know about, that I’m not fabricating in any way.”
Williams wrote nine of the album’s 10 tracks, collaborating with songwriters like Dan Auerbach, Brandy Clark, Mary Gauthier, and Daniel Tashian. Some songs, like “Wild Girl” and “10-4,” have hallmarks of polished mainstream country — pulsing drums, a rapid-fire lyrical delivery, shout-outs to Sonic drive-ins — while others like “Can’t Fool Your Own Blood” and “Bulleit Blues” are raw and ragged. All are threaded through with an underlying sadness. Even a song titled “Happy All the Time,” written with Gauthier and featuring a cameo by Dolly Parton, is anything but.
“On the day that I wrote that song, my publisher was like, ‘You know, you write so many sad songs, so what if you just write a happy song?’” Williams says. “And then I sent ‘Happy All the Time.’”
At the suggestion of his manager, Williams typed a letter to Parton asking her to contribute to the song and had it passed to the country music matriarch by a mutual friend. Parton liked the forlorn message — “If money could buy happiness/I’d be happy all the time,” goes the chorus — and agreed to sing harmony vocals.
“When I was writing it, I was envisioning a new take on the fact that money can’t buy happiness,” Williams says. “If happiness was on Amazon and you could buy little pieces of it, what would we spend to truly be happy? I wanted to put anecdotal examples in and make it personal.” He also wanted to set it firmly in the present: the lyrics talk about trading Escalades and diamonds for true love and peace of mind.
Mary Gauthier, known for her own gut-punch songwriting, co-wrote “Happy All the Time” with Williams. She says she was impressed by the singer’s commitment to separate himself from any family privilege.
“Sam is from country music royalty and he is very aware of his lineage and he wants to honor it but not imitate it. He wants to be his own guy,” Gauthier says. “The reason they put him with me [to write] is because he wants to be, and is, a truth teller. I love his courage and I’m honored to help him articulate what it is he needs to say.”
Gauthier was at the Grand Ole Opry when Williams made his Opry debut in 2019 and struck up an unlikely friendship with Hank Williams Jr., who watched his son perform from the wings. But Sam Williams says any career advice or knowledge that he received from his father, infamous for his transition into rowdy Southern rock in the late Seventies and Eighties, happened by osmosis. “My dad doesn’t really like to talk about music that much. He likes to talk about hunting, fishing, metal detecting and wars,” he says.
Still, Williams admits there are parallels in his journey and that of his father. While he never sought to carry on any family tradition of his forebears, there was the creeping doubt that he’d be unable to evolve into his own artist, or even man. He alludes to some of that in the somber title track of Glasshouse Children, a song about the fragility of youth.
“It becomes very easy to carry pain, or whatever else that you’re carrying with you,” he says. “It’s easy for that to become a major part of your identity. And it’s hard to let go of it and find out who you are.”
To Williams, his lineage is a thing to be both confronted and respected. He wore his grandfather’s hat when he made his Opry debut and performed “Can’t Fool Your Own Blood” in a house once owned by Hank Sr. during an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late-night show. He says similar gestures may come in the future.
“If I want to cover or reimagine songs in my family, it’s my right,” Williams says. “And I definitely will. But I wanted to start out with real songs, real lyrics, and real new sounds.”
The Complete Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams, Jr. The Name itself has become larger than life, and although Hank is still a young man, his career spans nearly 40 years and 66 albums. Hank's persona, like his name, is larger than life. He has become familiar not only to fans of country music, but also to millions who have watched him perform his opening theme to ABC's Monday Night Football for ten years. ALL TIME GREATEST HITS captures the legacy of country music's most famous son as he continues his journey to change the face of contemporary music.
Hank Jr.'s career stands as the most frustrating of all modern honky-tonkers', as much for the way the industry has managed his immense catalogue as for the way he has managed his undeniable gifts as a songwriter and singer. At three CDs, Curb's overview is a far cry from "complete": his best work, especially the tough, bluesy songs of Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, is slighted in favor of a play-the-hits approach, even though Williams's singles haven't always been his best work. Likewise, the collection includes nary a cut from the sadly out-of-print Hank Williams Jr. & Friends, though the liner notes recognize that 1975 album as a landmark. Instead Curb has cobbled material readily available elsewhere on existing hits packages and complete albums. That said, Jr.'s country-fried rock--newcomers may be shocked at how hard he rocks--and his unreconstructed hillbilly ideology can be bracing on "Come On Over to the Country," on the foreboding "A Country Boy Can Survive," and on his best '80s performance, a scorching duet with Johnny Cash on "That Old Wheel" (from Cash's classic Water from the Wells of Home). But instead of focusing on similarly strong tunes, this box includes the tasteless beyond-the-crypt duets with Hank Sr., the silly, unblushing prejudice of "Young Country," and the war-mongering diatribe "Don't Give Us a Reason"--as if the listener needed reminders of just how bad Bocephus can be. What Hank Jr.'s legacy needs is a thorough, critical, and eclectic compilation of his finest performances. This set isn't it. --Roy Kasten
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It's About Time (Hank Williams Jr. album)
2016 studio album by Hank Williams Jr.
It's About Time is the fifty-third studio album by Hank Williams Jr. released by Nash Icon Records on January 15, 2016. The album includes re-recordings of previously released material and new songs.
Billboard felt that the album's lyrics sent a mixed message, writing, "On the title track of his new album, It's About Time, billed as his 37th, he complains he has 'had enough of this weird pop-country sound.' But that doesn't stop him from recruiting contemporary country talents and tricks for help."Rolling Stone panned the album, writing "Country vet rocks out, waves guns around, incites snoozes".Allmusic gave the album 4 out of 5, writing "there's not a sense of a bro-country sop because this has swagger and, as the man himself says at the song's end, 'the band played like they were pissed.' All through It's About Time, Hank Jr. and his colleagues play it big and burly, laying into barroom boogies and rocking country as if they never went out of style. Williams knows this isn't true, of course. He notes that 'Those Days Are Gone' -- itself an ode to the days when you could hear Haggard, Coe, and Jones on the radio -- but he sings this ode to olden days without a tear in his eye, possibly because he's having too much fun once again raising a ruckus."
The album debuted at No. 2 on Top Country Albums, the highest he's reached on the chart since the release of Lone Wolf in 1990. The album also debuted at No. 15 on Billboard 200, selling 24,000 copies in its first week. It sold a further 9,000 copies in its second week. The album has sold 60,800 copies in the US as of March 2016.
|1.||"Are You Ready for the Country" (featuring Eric Church)||Neil Young||3:29|
|2.||"Club U.S.A."||Tony Stampley, Bonnie Swayze||3:19|
|3.||"God Fearin' Man"||Chris Janson, Brandon Kinney, Kendell Marvell||2:37|
|4.||"Those Days Are Gone"||Janson, Brice Long, Terry McBride||3:41|
|5.||"Dress Like an Icon"||Hank Williams Jr.||4:13|
|6.||"God & Guns"||Mark Stephen Jones, Travis Meadows, Bud Tower||4:50|
|7.||"Just Call Me Hank"||Williams Jr.||3:02|
|8.||"Mental Revenge"||Mel Tillis||2:57|
|9.||"It's About Time"||Williams Jr.||3:29|
|10.||"The Party's On"||Williams Jr., Joe Kent, Stampley||2:59|
|11.||"Wrapped Up, Tangled Up in Jesus (God's Got It)"||Reverend Charlie Jackson||6:21|
|12.||"Born to Boogie" (featuring Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore and Brad Paisley)||Williams Jr.||2:45|
- ^ abcBillboard
- ^ abcallmusic
- ^Roughstock. "Hank Williams Jr. "It's About Time" Tracklist & Cover Art". RoughStock.
- ^"Hank Williams Jr. Joined by Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert on New LP". Rolling Stone.
- ^"Hank Williams, Jr. Talks Musical Career & Nash Icon Record Deal - Billboard". Billboard.
- ^ abRolling Stone
- ^Asker, Jim (January 26, 2016). "Thomas Rhett Rules Again; Hank Jr. Scores Highest Debut on Country Albums Chart". Billboard.
- ^Bjorke, Matt (February 2, 2016). "Country Albums Chart Report: February 2, 2016". Roughstock.
- ^Bjorke, Matt (March 24, 2016). "Country Albums Chart: March 20, 2016". Roughstock.
- ^"Hank Williams, Jr. Chart History (Canadian Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- ^"Hank Williams, Jr. Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- ^"Hank Williams, Jr. Chart History (Top Country Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- ^"Top Country Albums – Year-End 2016". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
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