This may be the time to go honky punk

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By Linda Ireland

When I was a kid, I found an old 78 record in our basement that featured Hank Williams singing "Cold, Cold Heart" on one side, and "Dear John" on the other. Those old 78s were nigh indestructible, as were the 45s that came later. I know this because "Dear John" is hanging on my family room wall, right beside my Dean Dillon "Slick Nickel" album and my James Dean poster.

Anyway, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard an introduction for Hank Williams III.

My ears perked up, because I'm a diehard Hank Williams fan - senior, not junior, mind you. And if there's a better song than "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," I don't know what it is.

Check out this line from the redneck lyricist.

The silence of a falling star

Lights up a purple sky

And as I wonder where you are

I'm so lonesome I could cry

That may clue you in on the fact that I'm not a credible modern day music critic.

In my world, Queen, Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf still rule the airwaves, although I have acquired a soft spot for Smashmouth and Sugarland along the way.

Nonetheless, I kind of liked Hank III. He sounds a lot like his grandfather - who died 55 years ago on New Year's Eve at the age of 29.

I looked up Hank III's Web site to see if he is, in fact, the true heir of Williams Sr., or if he is just another rumored offspring like Kid Rock. Kid Rock - despite the Internet buzz - is NOT the son of Hank Williams Jr., although it would not surprise me if he were.

While browsing the Web site, I came across a description of Hank III's music: "classic country delivered with fiery punk attitude, hard-twang, punkabilly, cowpunk, alternacountry, slacker swing or honky punk."

Honky punk? Can you get in trouble for talking like that? What on God's green earth is a honky punk?

I didn't hear anything like a honky punk coming out of my radio, but if Hank III says he can sing it, who am I to argue? What I did hear was a good likeness of his grandfather's heartfelt twang - which is enough to make me forgive the youngster for all those other noises he makes.

And by the way, if you're unfamiliar with "Dear John," it's probably because it's more than 50 years old. Elton John, Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston are a few of the artists who sang copycat songs with the same title. But here are two verses of the Williams original:

"Well when I woke up this morning,

There was a note upon my door,

Said don't make me no coffee Babe,

'cause I won't be back no more,

And that's all she wrote, Dear John,

I've sent your saddle home.

Now Jonah got along in the belly of the whale,

Daniel in the lion's den,

But I know a guy that didn't try to get along,

And he won't get a chance again,

And that's all she wrote, Dear John,

I've fetched your saddle home."

It's not honky punk, but you've got to admit, old Hank knew how to write a Dear John letter.