Wayne Hancock

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With his weathered voice, honky tonk jukebox sensibility, and a catalog of songs that are sharp, clear, and not overly clever just for the sake of showing he can be clever as a songwriter, Wayne Hancock has frequently been compared to the godfather of this whole modern country thing, Hank Williams, a bestowal that would probably mess up most artists. Hancock seems to handle the accolade, though, and he is arguably the finest country traditionalist working the 21st century country scene, a scene that has seen the genre drift increasingly toward tight-jeans posturing and grand pop gestures. Hancock, who tosses out a roots mix of old country, roadhouse blues, western dance swing, boogie bop, and straight-up rockabilly, takes what was once old and makes it seem like it's always been and always will be, and like any veteran road musician, he knows what he does and he knows how to make it click on any given night. This set, his eighth album, and fifth for Bloodshot Records, follows right in line with what one expects from Hancock, although it is perhaps a tad more personal, with several of the songs coming out of a recent breakdown in his marriage, but even at that, Hancock's bedrock everyman approach to songwriting and performance has always included honky tonk heartbreakers, so if there are a couple more than usual of those songs on this outing, it doesn't skew things in a melancholy direction. Highlights include the wonderful "Home with My Baby," "Deals Gone Down," and "Get the Blues Low Down" (rather upbeat, despite its title), although, like the road bikes that provide the cover and main creative motif of this album, everything here is headed down that roots highway toward the next jukebox honky tonk.

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