LITTLE ROCK Wayne “The Train” Hancock is a modern kind of guy who sounds anything but modern. Born in the mid-1960s, Hancock sounds like he could have been nudged aside by Hank Williams in the early days of radio, when terms like country, honky-tonk, hillbilly, western swing and blues were still shape shifting.
Indeed, even Hank Williams III has said that Hancock sounds more like Hank Sr. than he, telling Hancock’s label, Bloodshot Records, that “Wayne Hancock has more Hank Sr. in him than either I or Hank Williams Jr. He is the real deal.”
Hancock was born in Dallas and now lives in Austin. He makes no secret of his disdain for the country music establishment and its Nashville, Tenn., base.
“I kind of stay away from the industry,” says Hancock, as he travels down a road, promoting his new appropriately titled album, Ride, which was released earlier this week. “They want too much; they want you under their control.”
Hancock has a distinctive vocal style that he reckons owes a debt to Woody Guthrie and Bob Wills, known as the king of Texas swing.
“I like the really old stuff,” he explains. “I might do an occasional cover, but it won’t be anything from the 1960s, or’70s or ’80s. It has to be something that’s enjoyable to do.”
He grew up listening to the elder Williams, Ernest Tubb and Jimmie Rodgers. By the age of 12, Hancock was writing songs. By the time he was 18 he had won the “Wrangler Country Showdown” talent competition, but he had to put music on the back burner because he had joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After six years of military service, he resumed his musical dreaming. Attention came his way when he was cast in a 1994 musical, Chippy, which had him performing with Texas legends Terry Allen, Butch Hancock (no relation), Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen.
His solo recording debut came in 1995, with Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, a CD that marked the beginning of his relationship with producer Lloyd Maines (the father of Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines) that continues.
“If it ain’t broke, I don’t fix it,” Hancock says of working with Lloyd Maines, who was along for the ride on the new album, co-producing with Hancock. Ride is Hancock’s fifth album for Bloodshot, a Chicago label that’s home to many country and roots rockers who find the creative environment there more to their liking than Nashville.
Touring takes Hancock out on the road about 225 days a year, accompanied by lead guitarist Eddie Biebel and standup bassist Jake Erwin.
“We tour comfortably in a van, not one of those big buses,” Hancock says. “I like driving and being on the road. It’s what I like to do. I like to play small places - bars, not dance halls, which are plentiful in Texas.
“A lot of the big dance halls in Texas are just part of the college scene, where they drink [to excess]. I just like doing what I’ve done for a lot of years. I’m just a little older now.”
Opening act Bonnie Montgomery of Little Rock divides her creative spirit between opera and honky-tonk. The classically trained singer and composer wrote a modern folk opera, Billy Blythe, about the childhood of President Bill Clinton. She has been half of a duo that has been the opening act for Gossip in the United States and Europe last fall and this winter.
Opening act: Bonnie Mont
8 p.m. Saturday, Maxine’s,
700 Central Ave., Hot
Weekend, Pages 34 on 02/28/2013
Print Headline: ‘The Train’ Hancock has Hank Williams sound