Concert preview: No thoughts of retiring, Hank Williams Jr. says he making ‘some of the best music’ of his career

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By KATHY STEPHENSON  www.sltrib.com

At 66, and with five decades of music under his belt, Hank Williams Jr. has earned the right to complain about the pop/rock leanings of today’s country music. But he won’t.

“You must remember, music goes in cycles,” Williams wrote in a recent email to The Tribune. “Some people didn’t think I was country when I was making records in the ’80s because I was using electric guitars and becoming a bit rowdy. I think that things just change, for better or worse.”

An optimistic — albeit rowdy — Williams will bring his country, Southern rock and blues sounds to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Sam Riddle opens the show.

It’s been several years since “Bocephus” has been to Utah.

“I don’t get out West very often, so when I do, I make it count,” he wrote. “I only do about 25 shows a year, so I have to like the place to play or I just won’t book the show.”

Williams spends a lot of time at his second home in Montana during the summer, “so it does make it easier to do shows from there versus traveling from Paris, Tennessee.”

During his career, the Grammy winner has had 20 gold and six platinum albums, been named Entertainer of the Year and been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Yet, he says, his creativity is as strong as ever as he works on his 37th album, to be released later this year.

“I am making some of the best music I have ever made,” he said. “Some critics will love it and others will not, I learned years ago, you cannot please everyone!”

In advance of his Utah show, Williams answered questions about the new album, his favorite new artist and retirement.

What kind of songs are you writing — or selecting — for the new album. Are they different than what fans might expect?

Yes, my manager asked me a few years ago to start my own label so that I could own the masters and the recordings. I did that and learned a great deal about the business side of the record business. Going into this new record I had the option of doing it again myself or signing with another label. I was presented with the opportunity to work with Scott Borchetta, who runs the Big Machine Label Group and has Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, and of course my buddy Reba (McEntire), so I thought how could I say no. Wait until you hear this new music, we are making some magic happen in the studio.

Is there one song you’re especially excited to release?

Just remember the title “You’ve Got To Dress Like An Icon.” It’s a pretty special kinda song.

Are there any new country artists you like to listen to?

I like what Eric Church is doing. He is doing it his way and I like that