Ever since Texas native Wayne “the Train” Hancock began making records back in 1995, he hasn’t done much tinkering with his music–which in turn was a barely modified revision of early 50s honky-tonk, specifically the classic sound of Hank Williams.
He’s just released Viper of Melody, his seventh album and fourth for the local Bloodshot label. Expertly produced by veteran Austin studio pro Lloyd Maines, it’s driven, as usual, by percussive slap bass–handled by one Huckleberry Johnson–with reinforcement from Hancock’s own rudimentary acoustic strumming. Electric guitarist Izak Zaidman and steel player Anthony Locke create much of the action–trading phrases, intertwining their lines, and just generally putting some meat on the rhythmic skeleton.
Most of the images and scenarios in Hancock’s songs probably won’t be too familiar to people who haven’t experienced rural living in, say, the 40s or 50s, and the singer’s corny asides and shouted encouragements to his bandmates sometimes push him into caricature territory. On the other hand, not too many folks are still pursuing this sound, and Hancock puts on a spirited show–if you want to hear old-fashioned honky-tonk in person instead of from a piece of dusty vinyl, he’s your best bet.