Joe Buck at Lee's Liquor Lounge tonight

Joe Buck at Lee's Liquor Lounge tonight

Hellbilly: Bastard-child subgenre of country music, fermented with punk rock energy and Southern pride. Joe Buck, the former bassist for Hank Williams III, embodies the genre perfectly, with his blankly-staring war face and skeletal frame. Solo, he performs with a bass drum and guitar, tendons in his arms and neck stretched to the snapping point as he stomps out the beat and hollers his lyrics to a crowd of hicks, punks, and rockabilly kids.

Hank III's lyrical content (such as it is) focuses mostly on getting high, tearing shit up, and how much pop country sucks. Joe Buck takes his hellbilly in a slightly different direction, touching on revenge, demons, insanity, and death. On the whole his writing doesn't exhibit a lot more poetic subtlety than his former boss (who's responsible for gems like "Don't give a fuck and I'm always fuckin' mad/ And don't you ever think about puttin' me in your god damn rehab") but for the most part Buck's music is more a channel for his onstage intensity than a finely crafted piece of art in and of itself.

There's a marked exception to that assessment: what Buck refers to as his "pussy song," Bitter Is The Day (video below). Here he genuinely sings rather than hollering, and his ragged voice brings the lilting melody and thoroughly depressing lyrics to life in one of the best examples of beauty in the hellbilly genre. It's at least as touching as, say, D.A. Coe (infamous for racist, sexist, and homophobic lyrics) singing such a gentle a tune as Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone).

Lee's is an excellent venue for Buck, whose one-man-band shtick thrives on a small stage, where fans can lean dangerously close, chanting his lyrics back at him and getting soaked in the sweat that he flicks off the ends of his sodden mohawk. Travis Tritt, he ain't.

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