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Unknown Hinson drops his hits at Greene Street

by Ryan Snyder

It’s not time for the Heavy Rebel Festival and it’s nowhere close to Halloween, but one look at the Greene Street Club crowd on the night of Friday, March 20 and you might have been convinced otherwise. Then again, maybe the packed house was just taking a cue from the King of Country Western Troubadours behind the mic, better known as Unknown Hinson (www. unknownhinson.com). For a man who resembles an Elvis impersonator bitten by a B-movie vampire and resurrected as a maniacal psychobilly wildman with bewildering chops, he appeals to an interesting subset. He has quite a few noted fans like “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening; Billy Bob Thornton, who enlisted Hinson’s day-to-day guise Stuart Baker in his band the Boxmasters; and Hank Williams III, who has Hinson’s face inked on his bicep. His conventional audience on Friday ran the gamut of weekend greasers, punkers, ’50s pin-ups and anyone else with the inclination to step out in character for a night. Though Hinson’s work might more accurately reflect the zeitgeist of poor, uneducated white Southerners with songs like “I Cleaned Out A Room (In My Trailer For You)”, even if it’s done in an entirely satirical fashion. His fans are clearly in on the joke, however, with his acerbic humor as a both a performer and the voice of Early Cuyler on “Squidbillies” being a large part of his appeal. The rest of it? It’s probably how he absolutely shreds on the guitar and there’s never any shortage of that at his live performances. It’s practically a guarantee for Hinson’s sets to be a mix of his own psychedelic rockabilly originals and some rather guitar-centric classic rock covers, though those are always given his own peculiar treatment. The first of those came with his version of Sonny Curtis’ “I Fought the Law” where, like the Dead Kennedys before him, he put his own revisionist twist on the outcome. He’s known to have quite an affinity for Jimi Hendrix as well, with “Hey Joe” and “Little Wing” (or “Wang,” in his thick Southern vernacular) as staples of his sets. Hendrix’s blusier work was forgone this time in favor of his more up-tempo and outright incendiary material, with “Manic Depression” mixed in right between “Rock N’ Roll is Straight From Hell” and “I Won’t Live in Sin With You.” It’s difficult to say when he’s at his best between the fiery fret work and his droll persona; the former inspires all sorts of whooping, while the latter is just as gut-busting as his stonerific late-night cartoon. Case in point: He acknowledged that his illustrious mutton chops were gone, but for good reason. He shaved them off in a quid pro quo deal with another of his “womerns.” But it wasn’t all fun and games. Hinson took an openly conciliatory regarding the hazards of addiction before breaking into “Alkyhol Withdrawl.” “Anybody here have a substance abuse problem? It’s alright, we’re all friends here,” he proclaimed. “I’ve got a couple of them myself: party and liquor.” In a rare departure from the show’s scorching tone, Hinson took the audience further into his difficulties with the drink and “purty womerns” through “Foggy Windows.” “I took a drink, or maybe five,” he crooned. “It’s hard to focus my eyes, while I was starin’ through foggy winders again.” He surely wasn’t going to end a blistering set on a downer. On the contrary, he raised the bar another notch by tearing through Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” with Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” buried within as a teaser. Being a gracious artist, Hinson didn’t directly make a beeline for the nearest bottle of seethrough party liquor after exiting the stage. Instead, Hinson made it clear that he was more than happy to greet any and all comers. “I’ll be signing whatever you like after the show,” Hinson stated. “Shirts, CDs, your wife’s breasts, your girlfriend’s breasts, it’s all the same to me.”

The ever-gracious Unknown Hinson works out his difficulties withparty liquor and womerns through scorching guitar work and an affinityfor morbid histrionics at Greene Street on March 20. (photo by RyanSnyder)

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