They may cover Bad Brains but this is still Southern roots music.
The name of the band may appear perplexing but it is actually quite logical. IV is in fact Coleman Williams, the great-grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Williams III, and the Strange Band is so named to reflect the various influences their music has in addition to the basic Williams family legacy. These influences were nurtured in the Nashville underground music scene rather than the traditional Nashville music scene as Coleman Williams resisted any pressure to simply echo the Williams family tradition. The band’s debut album ‘Southern Circus’ was released in 2022 on Shooter Jennings’ Black Country Rock label, and ‘Hang Dog’ was produced and recorded in Los Angeles by Shooter Jennings, who is also featured on piano, as the band look to develop their sound.
Coleman Williams came to his own music later in life which means that he can use a greater life experience to inspire his songs. The title track takes inspiration from his father’s and his own relationship with dogs, to make the point that someone with a hang dog expression isn’t necessarily unhappy, it is just that at times life can be hard. By the second track ‘Fray The Line’ it is obvious that Coleman Williams likes vibrato in his voice, and while his band includes fiddle, pedal steel, and mandolin they are used to give an interesting soundscape which plays back to the band’s name. While he may be trying to push the boundaries of his music ‘If The Creek Don’t Rise’ drips with the authentic sound of country music from his great-grandfather’s era. We are back in Strange Band territory for ‘Today’, a tale that ends with the protagonist being given the death sentence. The strangeness is reigned back on ‘The Bleed’ which has a more acoustic feel. The acoustic feel is maintained on ‘Neskowin Ranger’ and echoes the Ghost Forest that appears occasionally on Neskowin beach in Oregon. A nod to a more traditional country sound is heard on ‘I.O.U’ about the challenges of living on a low wage and the associated risk of debt. The strangeness returns on the more up-tempo ‘Diddle’. The band stretch out on ‘Septic’ before closing with a cover of Bad Brains ‘Sailing On’.
IV and the Strange Band are trying to develop their own music as Coleman Williams is trying to make his own mark on the Williams family legacy. Shooter Jennings is another artist who is not afraid to look outside his family’s traditions for musical inspiration and he ably supports IV and the Strange Band’s musical journey into roots music with a modern twist that is still music of the South, if not the music of Nashville’s mainstream music. ‘Hang Dog’ is a stronger album than their debut, ‘Southern Circus’, but there is a question over IV and the Strange Band’s progress and that is Coleman William’s significant use of vibrato on his vocals. This is a Marmite type thing, and while some listeners may be put off others could find it interesting. Whatever potential listeners’ thoughts on this, the music combines the legacies of two of country music’s most legendary families and definitely deserves a listen.