“My name is Bocephus!” barked Hank Williams, Jr., halfway through last night’s performance of “Are You Ready for the Country?” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The song’s next line — “And my name’s Chief,” normally delivered by duet partner Eric Church — was missing, but Williams made up for the slimmed-down guest list by refocusing the audience’s attention on his live band, a swampy seven-piece that played Neil Young’s 1972 hit with appropriate doses of grease and grit.
The kickoff track to this month’s It’s About Time, “Are You Ready for the Country?” represents a reboot to Williams’ career. The legend recently signed with Nash Icon, the label that’s overseen recent releases by legacy artists like Ronnie Dunn and Reba McEntire, and recorded his new album with help from a string of current chart-topping artists, including Brad Paisley and Brantley Gilbert. The aptly-named It’s About Time — his first studio release since 2012 — repositions Williams not only as a country vet, but as a songwriter who isn’t quite through with the mainstream.
“I’m what you call a motivated icon,” Williams told Rolling Stone Country last October, “and you got to watch out for a motivated icon, baby.”