Maines had a very specific duty in his role as producer. "He mainly just supported what I was doing," says Hancock. "It was his job to make the record better. When we were putting the songs together, Lloyd told me we were a couple of minutes short. Some people have some peculiar ideas about how much music you're supposed to fit on a disc. So, we sat down and recorded another song that I had written a long time ago. Lloyd played dobro. I try to include some surprise each album for people who thought they had figured out what I sound like."
That song was recorded by the pair just sitting in facing chairs and playing. The liner notes quote Hancock as saying, "It was cut in twenty hours, mixed in two days and cost less than ten thousand to make, and this is as it should be."
Why should it be that way? "That way it's not over produced," says Hancock. "That way I can guarantee ' when they come to see me, that this is what it's going to sound like. They aren't going to come to my shows and find out that I can't really sing - that it was just studio tricks and backup singers."
With all his disdain for the Nashville way of putting out records it might seem that Maines, who works with the Dixie Chicks (his daughter is lead singer Natalie Maines) and several others, might be at odds with that attitude.
"We didn't talk about it," says Hancock. "It's like if I have a friend who has a disgusting habit like smoking cigars in elevators or something, it doesn't effect the work he does for me."
Evidently, it didn't impact upon the work Maines did for him on this disc, as the sound seems as simple as Hancock's approach to his music.
In keeping with his desire to not remain anchored to one sound, Hancock has an EP out on Bloodshot called the "South Austin Sessions." There's more of a jazz feel to some of these six songs with even a trombone thrown in for good measure. The disc will only be sold through the Bloodshot website and at Hancock's performances.
"It is completely different from the other one," says Hancock in comparing "South Austin" to "A Town."
But "A Town Blues" is the pure Hancock style. There's a bit of Hank Williams, a splash of Jimmie Rodgers and even a dash of Woody Guthrie.
Yet the whole thing remains true to Hancock's vision. "I'm out there being honest and playing for the love of the music," he says. "Do you think there are many out there who are doing that?"
Hancock himself could name a couple. "I believe Big Sandy is," he says. "I think the Royal Crown Revue is another. I can't think of anybody else off the top of my head. I've met tons of people who come up to me after a show and say they didn't know anybody was making music like this. They said it changed their life. They said that they were going to go out and do this kind of music. There are people out there who like this music and more all the time who are playing it."
Exposure continues to be a problem. As far as radio play and major media exposure, not many alternative country or Americana artists are becoming household names. But there are ways that work, sometimes to surprising ends. "There's a lot of people who don't know it exists," says Hancock. "But I've gotten words from people that they've heard me in China and New Guinea on Peace Corps radio. So, I can be heard. Just not very often."