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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Hancock earns nickname

The Middle East, Cambridge, Mass., April 22, 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MA - Wayne Hancock's style of country isn't exactly bursting all over the airwaves these days.

Not with that traditional sound, quickly recalling Hank Williams Sr. and other voices of a bygone era.

But Hancock, who goes by the nickname Wayne The Train, rumbled into town showing that sometimes life isn't entirely fair.

In other words, Hancock proved that he is not merely a poseur recalling Hank Sr., but easily has lived the music and deserves a wider audience.

Hancock proved far stronger than at a December concert at Johnny D's in Somerville where he seemed to be ill at-ease. Maybe spending more time on the road - he was two weeks into the current six-week jaunt - has made Hancock more road tested.

As Hancock's manager, Michael Dietz said, before and after the show, a small club with people up close is the ideal setting for Hancock.

This time around, Hancock along with upright bassist Bill Lawson pedal steel/electric guitarist Chris Miller seemed entirely comfortable. The unique configuration - since no drummer is used - worked quite well with each musician helping set the tone. Miller was particularly outstanding on pedal steel. Instead of the usual whiny sound emanating from it, he managed to make it sing.

And when it came to singing, Hancock delved into tales of love gone awry. He doesn't possess the prettiest voice, but he puts the words across with the conviction of someone who has lived them.

But don't get the sense that Hancock is all doom and gloom. Far from it. He joked about his failed romance with ace guitarist Sue Foley, saying in response to being told "I don't love you anymore"..."That's okay because I got a helluva lot of songs out of that one line."

He played a number of songs from his fine debut "Thunderstorms and Neon Signs" with the title track being among the best during the 65-minute set. He could have played a few more from the album. Show highlights included the six-decade old classic, "My Shadow and Me" and a strong rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

The only true negative on the night was the failure of Hancock to play an encore, despite strong urging from the approximately 75 people in attendance. Hancock seemed to cite the impending closing time as the reason.

This doubtlessly wasn't the last time he will play the area since this train should keep right on rolling.

Veteran local band The Merles played a sharp opening set with a bunch of quality songs, though they did come across as a bit too serious. Perhaps a CD currently being worked on will propel the appropriately named band to more notoriety.