Music

Briefly Noted: A Country Singer Can Evolve

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Although he is a wealthy and successful second-generation celebrity, Hank Williams Jr. has long maintained a populist pose. In addition to his rowdy songs about such popular personal obsessions as sex, drugs, booze, and football, he has praised small-town values, vigilante justice, and generally reactionary politics.

After the September 11 attacks, Williams retooled his agrarian manifesto "A Country Boy Can Survive" into the aggressively patriotic "America Will Survive." Last fall, he turned his politics partisan by transforming his clever "Family Tradition" (which celebrates marijuana and whiskey) into the clumsy "McCain-Palin Tradition" (which sneers at the liberal media and leers at Sarah Palin).

Along with lamenting high taxes, his latest single, "Red, White & Pink-Slip Blues," complains about dangerous streets and jobs that "moved to Mexico." It's an accurate portrait of today's right-wing populism, a movement whose central theme is class anxieties, not small government.