With Country, Punk, Doom, Grind Metal and Cattlecore Royalty, Hank Williams, III (aka Hank III) and His Sidearm Guitar Ace, David McElfresh

One of my favorite nights in the music industry ever was actually a night off instead of a work. Yep yep, that time in 2011 hanging with Hank Williams, III, best known to his fans as Hank III.

I had a buddy at the time, guitarist David McElfresh, who was playing in Hank’s band and who also has a terrific band of own which I gave a lot of press love to, Moonbow. Referred to as “Davey” from backstage, McElfresh and I had a good rapport to the point he’d invited me down to Hank III’s gig on the guest list. Davey took good care of me all night.

Let me tell you, Hank Williams, III puts on a marathon show rolling, kicking and screaming for more than four hours that night and he splits the sets by genre. The longest set, the first one, is naturally pure country as his grandfather, Hank the Elder, as I call him, would’ve rolled with back in the day. Hank III has long made it a crusade to see his grandfather reinstated in the Grand Ole Opry and he had no problem mincing words about the fact in his country set. Rebel yells and PBR were flowing during that portion, but Hank III also had no problem letting go half of his audience which wouldn’t know Superjoint Ritual from a beach spliff party with a caveat the remaining segments of the gig were anything but country. He politely gave those who didn’t apply a friendly warning to roll out, lest their eardrums take a savage beating.

As expected, less than half of the urban cowboys in Baltimore took off, leaving the venue to be peeled apart by Hank III, McElfresh and his team of hellraisers, slamming through a punk set of Hank’s own music and his grind-punk affiliates, Assjack. Afterwards, the final two sets delved into blasting roars of doom and grind metal culled from Hank III’s side projects, 3 Bar Ranch and Attention Deficit Domination. The final set being played as trio with all wearing bandanas as bandit mask facial coverings. Just wild, from start to finish.

It was after the show where I hung out on the band’s touring bus with David McElfresh and the rest of the group, and I was deeply impressed watching Hank III work an endless line of fans who’d migrated to the bus in hopes of meeting the lineage of country music royalty. He shook hands, gave out autographs and took selfies with every single person while I shared beers with the band. Afterwards, I had a few minutes to hang with Hank III and David McElfresh and the dude is legit. We talked more about his grandfather than his father, a legend of country deep fans call Bo Cephus. No surprise if you’re familiar with the family business. Hank III is as tall as he looks, as both McElfresh and myself were dwarfed in the shot above, tossing not an expectant metal-styled horns-up, but a three-finger salute to a man with sheer wherewithal and his rowdy-ass music. Boom.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Dismantled Office…On to the New…

Back from the gym, The Mission’s Goth rock classic, God’s Own Medicine chiming in my ears, a pocketful of minutes all to myself in story revision mode. Winding down to the move inside a dismantled office, looking forward to sharing one in our next digs. It helps when you’re marrying a fellow writer. Kitties meowing outside the closed door. C’mon, guys, I love you but I’m on a mission of my own.

Death Wish Coffee: A 12-ounce, 728 mg Megaton Caffeine Blast

This one’s for all my fellow coffee hounds out there, you know who you are.

I’m nearly as much of a java connoisseur as I am with beer and bourbon. While I have to wait a bit longer for my underaged son to imbibe the good life with me, we have opened up a shared love of coffee. Hawaiian Kona is my absolute favorite coffee in the world. Then there’s the genius level brews served chain style at Peet’s and First Watch and so many independent coffeehouses I’ve pulled from the brim around the country. Sure, I love me some Dunkin’ and an untainted Venti size Pike’s Roast at Starbucks. A pair of hippies I once knew used to make the most bangin’ organic nutty-flavored coffee they called Mother Earth, and I rue the day they went out of business.

I have family in the UK and they send over the British-built Hot Lava Java. While the English are the inarguable masters of tea, Hot Lava Java is an absolute shock and joy. One day I hope to sip on tea and HLJ in Yorkshire and the northern UK while scouting for Midsomer Murders film locations. A favorite pastime TJ and I have is pulling on some PG Tips while seeing which of us can beat Chief Inspector Barnaby to the punch to solve those daffy mysteries.

You all know I used to haunt local open mike forums in Maryland and Pennsylvania-based coffeehouses and lovingly joke how I and my fellow poets and authors dueled the hissing espresso machines to be heard, much to the chagrin of customers less than supportive of the arts. Only to take down cinnamon or hazelnut espresso myself during the breaks at open mike. Like my beers, the darker and richer the blend, the better, though I can get still down with the cheapies like Bustelo and Eight O’Clock. Suffice it to say, I love my hot beverages.

My son has watched me over the course of his 15 years pounding coffee, though nowhere near the same zealousness as my stepfather, who can drink two pots of the stuff a day. I think coffee is the secret to his success at a tank-rolling 80 years old. Naturally, the boyo grew curiouser and curiouser about coffee over the years to the point he is now refining his own taste buds. If we can get him off the cream and sugar, he’ll have an entire world of taste unravel across his tongue. I’ve had to go slow with the kid over the course of the past couple years he’s been wanting the stuff, but wherever he lands in his adult life, I’m more than certain he’ll be a coffee hound like the rest of us.

It’s been out a while, and I had a cup a few years ago to much delight, but in case you haven’t heard, there’s this little coffee company blowing raspberries at the industry, claiming to be “rebellious by nature.” They boast to have “coffee that slaps,” and they’re not far off in having the right. I’m talking about Death Wish Coffee Company, “ruining other coffee since 2012.”

Serving bagged organic coffee in four blends, medium, dark, espresso and Valhalla Java, Death Wish Coffee drops 728 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces upon its consumers. It’s not one to take down the entire day, no matter how acclimated your body may be to caffeine. A Rockstar energy drink may be more fashionable and profitable to the high octane generation coming up, but Death Wish is pure refinement of the coffee bean as it is a sock across the tongue.

They’re also expensive at $19.99 per 16 ounce sack, which makes Death Wish Coffee a road lesser traveled in my house, given our tight budget and an upcoming wedding to save for. I got the dark blend this weekend courtesy of a major 3 day only sale on the stuff, so my kid could give it a whirl. I already knew what to expect, and maybe it’s a tad irresponsible, but the boy has needed me even more as a dad lately, and it gave me a quiet snicker to see his face light up with an emphatic nod of approval to Death Wish. Even more hilarious when one of our cats nosed around my cup and jerked his head back, paws lifted up before trotting off with a bipolar feline review. Enjoy it while we have it, kid. We go back to the basic brews when it’s all gone.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Find Your Queen (or King) Willing to Fight By Your Side

Above is my favorite meme ever generated. It speaks of my relationship with TJ and how fortunate I am to have a warrior at my side. In our short time as a couple, we’ve had the utmost joy and dealt some heavy trials, including the past few weeks. These are the way-too-soon hard times which divide many couples. Yet this woman hasn’t given up on our union, even with the hardships flung upon us with that ever-present whisper of “What now, mortals?” the fates often nudge into our ears like a dare more than a challenge. I’m proud to say I have my queen who puts forehead to forehead, lips to lips, then proverbially (and sometimes literally) says “We’ve got this, babe.”