Metallica’s James Hetfield: A Little Bit Country

September 17, 2019 2 min read

Metallica’s James Hetfield: A Little Bit Country

Metallica’s James Hetfield is a metal legend.

A formidable songwriter, vocalist and one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in heavy music, he’s an institution in his own right.

Naturally, when we think of James Hetfield, we tend to think hard rock. But, if you know your Metallica, you’ll know just how indebted Papa Het is to the world of country. And, that love of old-time music sometimes finds its way into the Bay Area Thrashers’ output.

Case in point, here are three times that Hetfield swapped his Gibson Explorer for a slide and Stetson and went a little bit country.

Mama Said

 

Released in 1996, Metallica’s “Load” was a turning point album for the band, and remains a divisive record among fans. Yes, they’d strayed from their thrash roots into hard rock territory with “The Black Album,” but for many “Load’s” dalliances with blues and alternative were a step too far.

And then there was “Mama Said,” an acoustic country ballad unlike anything the band had ever released before.  For some purists, Hetfield’s reinvention as a post-grunge good ole’ boy was heresy; the moment that the ‘Tallica boyz forfeited their crown as the masters of modern metal.

Yet, with a bit of much needed temporal distance, “Mama Said” is due something of a re-evaluation. If you want proof of Hetfield’s prowess as a songwriter, as well as his country credentials, this track is a pretty good place to start. 

Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Gone Out of Hand?

 

Here’s James Hetfield sans Metallica for a rendition of Waylon Jennings’ “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Gone Out of Hand.” Performed live at the Country Music Awards in 2004, the second single from Jennings’ “I’ve Always Been Crazy” album gets a suitably Hetfieldian treatment.

When Het goes country in Metallica, it usually means toning the band’s sound down. Here though, the inverse is true. It’s a raucous arrangement with shades of thrash and hardcore punk thrown in for good measure. It works though, and makes you wonder if he couldn’t carry a whole album of country standards in this style…

The Four Horsemen (Live at the Masonic)

 

If you’re familiar with Metallica’s debut album, “Kill ‘em All,” you’ve probably heard “Four Horsemen.” And, you’re probably aware that it ain’t country. A blistering slab of primordial thrash, it was one of the band’s calling cards when they pedalled their “young metal attack” back in the early ‘80s.

When the band took the stage unplugged at San Francisco’s Masonic last year, though, they gave the song an unexpected makeover. Complete with lap steel and some slinky slide playing from “Kirk Hammett,” this is “Horsemen” country style.

Het brings the twang on this one; less thrash metal beast, more snarling outlaw raconteur. “Sounds a little different,” he intones at the song’s end. He ain’t wrong, but it sure works. Goes to show: if Metallica’s thrashing prowess fails them in their twilight years, an unplugged reinvention could be a good way to age gracefully.

What’s your favourite country Hetfield moment? Or your favorite Metallica moment full stop? Share your stories in the comments!



Also in Fingerboard Stories

Cigar Box Guitars: The History of a Folk Instrument Phenomenon
Cigar Box Guitars: The History of a Folk Instrument Phenomenon

July 02, 2020 3 min read

The origin of cigar box guitars can be traced back to 1840 and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the emergence of the small, portable cigar box. Due to its small size and widespread availability, the cigar box made for the perfect body to a low-cost, DIY instrument. It seems that would-be strummers took to using them straight away, as trace evidence of cigar box instruments exists from 1840 to the 1860s. 
Eddie Kramer: Words of Wisdom
Eddie Kramer: Words of Wisdom

June 25, 2020 4 min read

Arguably rock’s greatest producer, nobody captures those sounds better than Eddie Kramer. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the records he helped make: Led Zeppelin II, Frampton Comes Alive, Physical Graffiti, Kiss Alive!, The Woodstock Soundtrack, All You Need Is Love and pretty much the entire discography of Jimi Hendrix. Given his near sixty-year career behind the mixing desk, Kramer has a thing-or-two to impart about the ins-and-outs of the recording process. Today, we’ve selected some choice observations from our favourite Eddie Kramer interviews.

How Taylor Guitars Changed the Sustainability Game
How Taylor Guitars Changed the Sustainability Game

June 19, 2020 3 min read

The Grand Auditorium Bodyshape, the NT Neck and “V-Class” Bracing are all products of the company’s unique approach, and brought new life to a centuries old instrument. It’s not just Taylor’s instruments that win them accolades, though. In the past twenty years, the company has led the charge when it comes to making sustainable guitars. Today, we’re going to find out how they changed the sustainability game by changing the way they sourced their woods.