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Wayne Hancock

Thunderstorms and Neon Signs – 1995 (Dejadisc)

Reviewed by Don Yates

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CDs by Wayne Hancock

Drawing from the golden age of honky tonk, Wayne Hancock strives to walk in the musical footsteps of none other than Hank Williams on his impressive debut. Produced by steel guitar legend Lloyd Maines, the disc has a classic Hank-era sound featuring just guitar, steel and stand-up bass. Drums are absent, and the only added instrumentation is provided by the spare use of horns on a couple of songs. Hancock's vocals are a bit thin, but he uses his voice to good effect by echoing Hank's raw, rural whine. Hancock, who first attracted attention on last year's "Songs for Chippy," wrote all but one of the songs - the album closes with a sultry version of the Gershwins-Heyward song "Summertime."

Hancock's lyrics bring to life a world of juke joints, freight trains and lost highways, while avoiding turning it into cliche. Hancock liberally quotes - lyrically and musically - from Hank Sr. and sometimes adheres to the text a little too closely. "Why Don't You Leave Me Alone" is a pretty straightforward rewrite of "Mind Your Own Business," but most of the time Hancock is able to draw inspiration from Williams' muse while maintaining his own musical identity.