What Is Maximum Honky Tonk?

Too country for rock, too rock for country. Hell, sometimes it’s too country for country. Confused yet?

Maximum Honky Tonk is a rootsy stew of rockabilly, country & western, blues, folk, and good old rock ‘n roll that I’ve developed over the years because it feels right. It’s roots music that ignores modern trends, but turns tradition on its ear. I take the last 60 years of popular American music and runs it through my guitar-and-comedy grinder, and what comes out the other end is hopefully some pretty entertaining musical sausage.

But we ain’t talkin’ no Ray Stevens novelty act here. Like most people, I have more than one flavor. There’s the funny side, which produces songs like “White Trash Paradise,” “Shitlist,” “Mr. Bubble Saved My Marriage” and “Laundromat.” And then there’s the more grown-up, ruminative side, which comes up with stuff like “Dirty Paradise,” “Saigon,” “Bread” and “Ain’t Worth a Dime.” While some music promoters and radio programmers like to keep artists neatly pigeonholed, I prefer to give my listeners some credit, knowing they’ve got room in their heads for both sides of the coin.

My musical influences are mostly pretty obvious, but there are plenty of artists who inform my work without leaving their thumbprints all over my songs. Storytellers like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, John Prine and Bruce Springsteen have freed me from the idea that everything has to be contained in three verses and a chorus, and coming up with interesting characters has become one of my favorite things.

I got on board the alt-country train around the time Garth Brooks was topping the charts in the early 1990s. Blood Oranges, the Bottle Rockets, Jason and the Scorchers, the Old 97s, Wayne “The Train” Hancock…all these artists and more carry the roots rock flag for American music, giving us more honest, more straight up stuff to listen to at a time when “Country Music” has become nothing more than phony, lightweight pap that has nothing to do with the real country tradition.

Like I always say onstage, Hank Jr. is the disease, and Hank Sr. is the cure. Now git!

You think it's easy singing with your eyes open?