Hank Williams Jr. will highlight his affinity for the blues on a new album produced by Dan Auerbach. Rich White Honky Blues, the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s first album since 2016’s It’s About Time, arrives June 17.
Auerbach recorded the album live with a backing band that included Kenny Brown, Eric Deaton, and Kinney Kimbrough, capturing a dozen tracks. Among them are Williams’ takes on songs made popular by Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, R.L. Burnside, Muddy Waters, and even his own work. It’s a building block of Williams’ sound as well as that of his father, who learned to play guitar from blues singer Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne in Alabama.
“The blues is where it all comes from,” Williams said in a statement. “It’s the start of everything musical in my family; everything starts with Tee-Tot and flows from there. I’ve always flirted with this stripped back blues – all the way back to the ‘80s. But I finally made an album that’s just that, and I like it.”
Bocephus announces the LP with “.44 Special Blues,” a tune that’s been through different iterations over the years; Williams renders it as a lonesome, acoustic blues number. It’s the familiar trope of a wayward woman and an extreme threat of violence. “If you keep on whoring, I’m gonna get my Gatling gun,” he sings.
Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020. The controversial singer’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” which had served as the theme music for Monday Night Football since 2017, was replaced with Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” when the pandemic hit. The song was previously taken off the weekly broadcast in 2011 after Williams likened then-President Barack Obama playing golf with John Boehner to “…Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The announcement of Williams’ latest musical endeavor comes with sad news: His wife of 31 years, Mary Jane Thomas, died on Wednesday.