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Quick Spin: '127 Rose Avenue' by Hank Williams Jr.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

127 ROSE AVENUE

Hank Williams Jr.

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After starting his career as a pint-size imitator of his daddy, Hank Williams Jr. morphed into the prototypical redneck outlaw during mainstream country's mid-'80s bad old days and has now, at 60, become an older, milder, country-er Kid Rock. Williams's intermittently affecting new disc, "127 Rose Avenue," is his first in almost six years and his first since "McCain-Palin Tradition," a controversial reworking of his hit "Family Tradition," became a YouTube/campaign trail hit last fall and breathed new life into the Hank Jr. brand.

The divisive "McCain-Palin Tradition" doesn't appear on "Rose Avenue," which is actually Williams's mildest record in memory, though it's still terrifically ornery. "I'm not one to complain," sings Williams, who then proceeds to complain about greedy women, defense attorneys, high taxes, maxed-out credit cards, convenience-store robbers and layoffs down at the mill. In almost every conceivable way, "Rose Avenue" feels nostalgic, from its familiar, middle-of-the-road honky-tonk sound to its lyrics, which are so steeped in Reagan-era culture-war nostalgia they're missing only a reference to Cadillac-driving welfare queens.

Still, some of "Rose Avenue" remains depressingly relevant. The first single, "Red, White and Pink-Slip Blues," is a shameless gut-punch of a song about a laid-off factory worker who can't afford to buy baby shoes. Some of it is timeless, too, like "All the Roads," a boisterous collaboration with bluegrass band the Grascals. And some of it, like the faux-ZZ Top number, "High Maintenance Woman," is just eternally unpleasant.

-- Allison Stewart

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Red, White and Pink-Slip Blues," "All the Roads"


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