Musically the album rampages with shrieking fiddles and galloping banjo lines that smack of Charlie Daniels.
Review by David Feltman
Shelton Hank Williams III’s country music has always been as fast and wild as his punk and metal dalliances. Songs about drugs and fighting and low down women have always been staples of Shelton’s music and a mark of his desire to secede from the pop oriented music of his father, Hank Williams Jr. But as much as Hank 3 has worked to separate himself from the corporate country of his father, his new album, Brothers of the 4X4, trades in the most stereotypical of country tropes. Shelton sings about hunting mud riding and his dog, keeping the whiskey, pills and cocaine of Straight to Hell on the shelf.
The titular ode to mud riding is as contrived and lyrically muddled as anything Bocephus ever produced, with lines like, “Let’s get rowdy. Let’s go wild. We got our own certain kind of rebel pride. Breaking down walls that might be there. There ain’t no walls in the woods that we share.” Seriously, are there walls to be broken or not? And what kind of woods would have walls anyway? Lyrics range from wincingly bad to silly on “Outdoor Plan” a hunting song peppered with a goofy chorus of “ner nee ner ner nee ner.”
There are a handful of such pandering and artificial tracks on the overly polished 4X4, but there are just as many keepers. Shelton sings, “When the closest one is the farthest away, how it burns in your mind when there’s nothing left to say,” on “Farthest Away,” a song filled with melancholic optimism. Musically the album rampages with shrieking fiddles and galloping banjo lines that smack of Charlie Daniels. When Shelton does hit the breaks on tracks like “Loners 4 Life,” his grandfather’s influence looms large.
4X4 doesn’t necessitate a double album, especially considering the second “album” holds a scant four tracks. This second CD is more like an overflow disc or an ersatz EP than a continuance of the first disc. Had the songs been honed into one tight album with all the chaff shook out, 4X4 may have been another solid release. As is, 4X4 is a bloated hit or miss compilation.