Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Wayne Hancock - Viper of Melody (Bloodshot Records)

Lloyd Maines is the man behind the knobs for the Texas tonkers sixth studio album, and again the pair have come up with the now familiar brand of honky tonk swing. When Wayne "The Train" Hancock came on the scene a decade or so ago, he was a breath of fresh air. His songs and style were so retro you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Hank was still in Shreveport and Webb Pierce was still dreaming of a swimming pool. Six albums later and it's hard to retain that freshness. The music is still pretty much the same, which is good because he'd be lambasted if he changed, but to me, the quality of the songs isn't as outstanding. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine moments here, but nothing like Thunder Storms And Neon Lights, 87 Southbound or No Sleep Blues.

On the positive side, the trumpet seems to have gone, and if you like pure hillbilly music, then Hancock is still about the best around. The highlights here include the up-tempo Throwin' Away My Money, the tale of betrayal and jealous revenge, Your Love And His Blood and Moving On My Mind. I just didn't warm to the title track, the jazzy Midnight Stars And You or the Hawaiian sleeper Tropical Blues, all of which lacked any oomph. There's plenty here that's okay and probably good in isolation, but as an album it just doesn't compare to his first couple of releases, and there's no killer track. While I'm being a grump I might as well admit that I don't think much of the album cover. I still love him though, and his live shows are absolutely mind-blowing.

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