SiriusXM premieres a Hank Williams, Jr. special celebrating the release of his acclaimed new It’s About Time album on its Outlaw Country channel tonight at 8 p.m., Eastern.
The program will repeat on the channel the rest of the month, and will run on the Prime Country channel, too, starting next Wednesday (Jan. 27).
Taped Tuesday afternoon at an exclusive subscriber event at the satellite radio station’s studios in New York, the program featured Williams singing and playing acoustic guitar along with longtime sidemen Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie fame on harmonica and Tony Bowles on guitar. Enthusiastically encouraged by Outlaw Country and Willie’s Roadhouse channels program director Jeremy Tepper (a truck-driving country music aficionado who revived his DJ RigRocker persona specially for the program), Williams, who was down with the flu after a whirlwind of New York promotional appearances including a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and duet with Whoopi Goldberg on The View, rose to the occasion with spirited performances of the new album’s “Just Call Me Hank” and “Dress Like an Icon” (the album, incidentally, is on the Nash Icon label).
He also sang his classics “Old Habits” and “A Country Boy Can Survive,” along with “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” from the catalog of his father Hank Williams—annointed by his son as “the king of the hillbillies.”
In between songs Williams spoke about growing up as the son of country music’s foremost singer-songwriter (who died when his son was three) and becoming a legend in his own right. Discussing his 1987 No. 1 hit “Born to Boogie”—a new version of which concludes It’s About Time with assists from Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore and Brad Paisley—he noted how he went on the road when he was eight, and that his songs “are all pretty much true.”
Of the somber and reflective “Just Call Me Hank,” he said that it came to him while driving in his pickup truck in West Tennessee on the way to his farm at 7:15 a.m. He immediately called his daughter Holly, who said, “That’s pretty heavy, Dad”—and started “bawlin’,” he said. Then he called his “merch man,” who was also moved to tears. Then his little grandson in the back seat started bawlin’, and then he himself started bawlin’ as well.
“Wow! This must be a really good Hank Williams song—we’re gonna do that one,” he told his daughter.
Despite being under the weather—and telling Tepper how he couldn’t wait to be back home—Williams sounded great and was exceedingly gracious afterwards, posing for photos with all the subscribers. Nodding at his accompanists, he noted that there are two things he and his band don’t do: bring a set list and rehearse. Clearly, they didn’t need to.
And while It’s About Time is said to be his 37th album, he told Tepper that there have been way more than that.
The new album, by the way, has received raves from the likes of Rolling Stone Country, Country Weekly and USA Today. It includes the single “Are You Ready for the Country,” featuring a duet with Eric Church, with whom he opened last year’s Country Music Association Awards—having won its Entertainer of the Year award in 1987 and 1988.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this album,” Williams said on its release. “I have been doing this a long time but I promise this is the best album yet and fans will not be disappointed.”