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Wayne Hancock

Viper of Melody – 2009 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Wayne Hancock

Wayne Hancock channels the essence of Hank Williams Sr. more convincingly than any modern artist. On this 13-song outing, the Texas-based singer-songwriter embraces freewheeling doses of western swing, West Coast rockabilly and cowboy boogie. The result is an appealing, lighthearted set that showcases this artist at his affable best.

Working with steel guitarist Arthur Locke, upright bassist Huckleberry Johnson and electric guitarist Izak Zaidman, Hancock and producer Lloyd Maines conjure a sound so full, that one hardly notices the lack of drums in the line-up. Aside from a pleasant take on Midnight Stars and You, Hancock penned all the tunes, including the thumping Maddox Brothers-inspired Freight Train Boogie and Doghouse Blues, retro-honky tonk shuffle Throwing Away My Money, the tough fugitive folk of Moving #3 and the cowboy jazz laden title track.

That said, when Hancock and crew start in on the Hank Sr. groove, they are hard to top. The barroom murder essayed in Your Love and His Blood rings with hook song conviction. Further, the Hillbilly Shakespeare's laconic humor is ably aped on Working at Working, likewise the allusion crazy blues of High Rolling Train. Throughout, the instrumental exchanges are smooth, yet atmospheric; the rhythms infectious, and Hancock sounds like he's having a very good night at the local roadhouse. What more do you need?