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Butch Hancock muses on "War and Peace"

By Brett Leigh Dicks, February 2007

While many have explored the open plains and cultural curiosity of Texas with great passion, few have embraced it as fervently as has Lubbock's own Butch Hancock, who just released "War and Peace" on his own label. Not only is the place embedded within his music, it is entrenched within his heart and soul. Lubbock might have given way to other locals in the process of Hancock's musical exploration, but he has always come back to Texas.

"I'm sitting here working on a poster at the moment for some of the shows that we have coming up." beams Hancock from his home in Terlingua in the heart of Big Bend country. "I have been doing this crazy artwork. I actually having a book coming later this year of some of the strangest drawings you're ever likely to see. They are all otherworldly, architectural, highly detailed drawings, and I have been working on these things for about the same amount of time that I've been doing music."

This disclosure should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the varied and dynamic creative output of this remarkable artist. As well as music and drawings, Hancock has also accumulated an impressive and acclaimed offering of photography. Not to mention outdoors activities like running rafting trips.

Despite what his accolades and catalogue might suggest, music wasn't Hancock's first career choice.

"I studied architecture back at Texas Tech in Lubbock all those years ago," muses Hancock. "But they kept kicking me out because I wouldn't draw any straight lines."

With so many expressive avenues at his fingertips, what directs a given inspiration down a specific creative path?

"That is something I have tried to figure out all my life, but don't have real a definitive answer for it," offers Hancock. "Occasionally there is an obvious cross over between things but, most of the time, something just takes it own direction. And I try to let that happen within my songs too. I try not to let one song influence another."

"Sure there's more latitude as far as style where the songs are concerned. Songs can be played in a lot of different styles. So, it's not so much the style I'm shooting for, it's just allowing them to come on through as they please. And I think that's true with the art too. They say if the artist can stay out of the way of the art, it's usually a very good thing."

Hancock might very well stay out of the way of the art, but he certainly embraces the life that fuels it. Nowhere is that more apparent than within his musical undertakings. Through his songs, Hancock places you right there in the midst of the experience with him. Whether it's a tale about daily life in Lubbock or pondering on the absurdity of war, for almost 30 years Hancock has been the consummate chronicler of life. But it is not merely a passing glance. He takes us to its core.

"Any song that somebody does is obviously not going to be the new law of the land," offers Hancock. "The best we can do is just offer up some ideas and see if people want to pick up on them or chop them into little pieces. It's always fascinating to watch what happens when songs get out floating about the airwaves.

Which is something Hancock hasn't had the opportunity of experiencing for a while. It has been almost nine years since the Texan singer-songwriter has released a solo recording. But, with "War and Peace," he is certainly making up for lost time. The album is an impassioned examination of both sides of the archetypical equation.

"I was thinking about putting one or two songs orientated around that theme on the new album and it just got to a point last year when I decided to do an entire album around that subject," explains Hancock. "So all of these songs run and range of looking at both war and peace.

Run the range they certainly do. However, they are all characterized and united by Hancock's poetic yet inflicting sensibility. It is a staunch stand the songwriter takes on a topic that has undoubtedly touched us all. And given that it is such a personal and emotional issue that this collection of songs embrace, it will be interesting to see how the songs play out in the live arena.

"I just played a bunch of these songs not too long back at a show up in Odessa," recounts Hancock. "The thing you gotta realize is that Odessa is something like 90-percent Republican. And that was probably the makeup and leaning of the audience too. But everybody seemed to love the songs."

And therein lays one of the most valuable and endearing aspects of music, Music has a great power to both inspire and persuade. It can open you up to new emotions or offer a different idea. It can make you feel and make you think. But, when it is at its most persuasive, it can also throw forth an entirely new perspective. One you might not have previously explored.

"You listen to music with a different part of your brain," muses Hancock. "It's different to the part you use for conversation and different again from when you are reading a book or the newspaper. Music brings a dimension of universality to whatever is being said. Whether it is accurate or not accurate, it gives it a sense of that. And that gives a person an opportunity to make connections that they might not have made otherwise."

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