Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wayne Hancock - Thunderstorms and Neon Signs

After seeing Wayne Hancock a few weeks ago, I certainly wanted to check out what he has put down, so found A-Town Blues first and now added this, his 1995 debut. Right from the start he knew what he wanted and got a truly authentic, early country sound, mixed with bits of rockabilly, hillbilly jazz, western swing and honky-tonk. The players on here are all top-notch, with Wayne contributing lead vocals and acoustic guitar, with (at various times on the record) three separate electric guitar players, a couple steel players, two stand-up bass players, some extra vocals and even clarinet!

I love the steel playing that opens the record and adds a traditional sound throughout, and the stand-up supplies rhythm as well as bass, while the guitars mix rockabilly, jazz, and C&W tones to give a cool variety within the tunes. "Juke Joint Jumpin'" bops and swings, Wayne yodels like Hank Williams in "Poor Boy Blues", and takes it a bit slower for the title cut, which combines some minor chords for extra melodic twists.

He takes a turn with straight-up rockabilly in "She's My Baby" and "Big City Good Time Gal" (both with some exceptional guitar riffin' and wonderful steel playin') and does a perfect hillbilly jazz in "Ain't Nobody's Blues But My Own", with hep clarinet and trombone, bouncin' chords and fast'n'melodic acoustic runs. Back to rockabilly for "Double A Daddy" (an ode to sobriety and chivalry - he lets his sweetheart drink and have fun and he'll be sober for the drink home) and a slightly slower pace for "Why Don't You Leave Me Alone?", while "Tag Along" again mixes up C&W and swing. "Cold Lonesome Wind" is similar in feel to the title track, with more interesting melodic touches, taking the tune in places that you don't expect.

As with any self-respecting country artist, Wayne has a train song, this one is "Locomotive Joe", with a drivin' beat and more trombone for flavor. I get an Eddie Cochran-ish vibe outta "No Loving Tonight" and a Bill Hailey groove (with some exceptional steel playing) in "Friday and Saturday Night" before concluding with a smokey "Summertime" with chanteuse singer Rebecca Hancock Snow adding some superb vocals and Bob Stafford cuttin' some excellent blues guitar along with more trombone.

This is kind of an amazing debut, and certainly not something that I would have expected to come out of the mid-90's! Wayne knows what he's doing and he does it well. If you dig real country - not the pap that is played on the radio these days - give this man a listen!