Wayne Hancock has based his music and career on life on the road and in the honky-tonks, so making his fifth and latest a live one is sensible. That this record, recorded over two nights at Austin's Continental Club in March, is as good or better than anything Hancock's ever done makes you wonder what he was waiting for. While live records can feel like an artist's marking time or fulfilling a contractual obligation, here Hancock and his excellent band bring inspiration and excitement to songs (mostly) old and new.
The stellar backing musicians, featuring Paul Skeleton and Dave Biller on lead guitar and the remarkable Eddie Rivers on pedal steel, dazzle and dance through a varied mix of swing, rockabilly, blues and country. The live sound crafted by producer Lloyd Maines is clean and crisp without feeling sterile - the crowd noise on the quieter ballads just reinforces the impression of actually attending the show. Hancock's trademark, Hank Williams-styled vocals have a vitality which surpasses the more careful versions on the originals. Here's a sharp summary of Hancock's music, and an excellent place to discover it.