Welcome to the continuing evolution of Wayne Hancock. Though cut largely from the same cloth as 1995's brilliant "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs," including a return by producer/guitarist Lloyd Maines, the Train managed to expand on his sound, avoiding the trap of making "Thunderstorms...Pt. II." Too often forgotten in discussions of Hancock's stylistic debt to Hank Williams is his similar love of big bands, torch songs and show tunes from Broadway's golden age. The occasional drums, horns, and accordian appear not as a concession to market demands but, instead, are appropriate to some of the new material, such as "Lea Ann."
Though nothing here is as gripping as "Cold Lonesome Wind" or the debut's title track, there's still plenty here to choose from. Hancock has wisely re-recorded the country-blues "Johnson City," which first appeared on an obscure single recorded last year with the Ridgetop Westernaires. "Johnny Law," long a staple of Hancock's live shows, should satisfy his sizable following in the rockabilly scene, as will the cover of Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac." Tracks like "Highway 54" and "Freight Train Blues" will certainly pass muster with fans of the hardcore hillbilly sound of the debut. This is as honest and as American as it gets, with more guts and determination as any 20 albums coming out of the Nashville machine these days.