Old School, New Rules by Hank Williams, Jr.

The furor over Hank Jr.’s comparison of Obama and Hitler late last year was, of course, overblown by the media. And while it got him place-kicked off the television gridiron where he’d suited up for 20-odd-years, it also galvanized a groundswell of support from like-minded conservatives, inspiring a fresh set of Southern-fried rants. Still, his new album often implies that his dismissal from Monday Night Football is as important as the political issues he spends a good deal of the disc complaining about.

Hank puts his larger-than-life estimation of himself to good use on Old School New Rules, giving the U.S. of A.’s little guys a mighty presence under which to stand. If you don’t count yourself among his rowdy friends, though, you might happen to notice that Hank also uses his platform to conflate the ailing state of the Union (as he sees it) with his belief that Hank-damn-Williams-Jr. should be able to say whatever he feels like, without question or consequence. So what’s the beef? He has a whole album on which to take swipes, which he does, at the objects of his dislike. 

The MNF bust-up incites Hank to deliver fiery performances such as the supercharged backwoods boogie “Takin’ Back the Country” and the thankfully apolitical honky-tonker “I’m Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams” (with Brad Paisley alongside). He also invokes his legendary dad on the former cut, featuring Hank Sr. himself singing appropriately chosen excerpts of his own songs. The calmer “Old School” spells out Hank’s position on self-expression without becoming confrontational, but also offers additional autobiography about his sterling country-music pedigree and “dinosaur” pride.

For a guy who repeatedly claims he’s not to be messed with, it’s curious that Junior is marshaling all his big guns here, as though guest spots from Merle Haggard and recurring references to his own legacy are a warning that his daddy and his pals can help him kick the rear-end of anyone foolish enough to challenge him. Hank’s been bruised but not broken, and Old School’s aggressive attitude evidences that he still rules, with or without reinforcements, on his particular piece of the playground. If you disagree, play there at your own risk. 

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