It may have seemed impressive back in the summer when Hank Williams III announced that he would be releasing four albums on one day, but the disparate quality of those four albums greatly diminishes his accomplishment. While his Hellbilly double album, Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town, is brilliant and fearless, his doom-rock album, Attention Deficit Domination, is a middling effort that veers toward camp. And then there’s Cattle Callin, an album of ostensible speed metal paired with samples of cattle auctioneers’ voices. A maddeningly repetitive album that wears out its welcome within its first few minutes, Cattle Callin is a concept record whose concept is so deeply flawed that it never should’ve made it as far as the studio.
Cattle auctioneers are known for their impossibly fast rates of speech, calling out bids at breakneck speeds; it’s a unique talent, to be sure, and there’s a natural meter and cadence to cattle calling that gives it a musical quality. Hip-hop and bluegrass acts have intermittently sampled auctioneers over the years, and Hank 3 has stated that he wanted to do the same in the context of a furious speed-metal album. The question, then, is why he didn’t just choose one of the 23 tracks he’s put together for Cattle Callin to include on Attention Deficit Domination, where it would have served as the kind of creative diversion that album sorely lacks.
Instead, Hank 3 decided to take this fairly thin conceit and stretch it well past the point of all reason and sanity. Opening track “Black Cow” lays the template for the album bare in its first few seconds, as Hank 3 lays down some tremendously fast, thundering speed-metal riffs and a sampled cattle call provides the vocal track. It’s a nifty little gimmick, but once the second and third tracks on the album, “Now There’s a Bull” and “37 Heffers,” make it clear that there isn’t a damn thing else for Hank 3 to do with the auctioneer samples, the effect is purely mind-numbing.
Williams has claimed that the album was an attempt to create a genre he’s dubbed “Cattle Core,” but he’s neglected to come up with something that anyone in their right mind would want to revisit. It’s an entirely one-note album that plays as a novelty, if it plays as anything at all. Although Cattle Callin provides Hank 3 with another opportunity to showcase his technical chops, even his arrangements and vicious guitar riffs grow repetitive after the first few tracks, and that technical know-how is truly all the album has going for it. Hank 3 may be one of the most creative recording artists in music today, but Cattle Callin proves that not all of his ideas are good ones.